It's pretty simple really. The Buffalo Sabres have lost six games in a row and scored 10 goals in those games. Their power play is 0 for 17 in the last seven games. You don't score, you can't win.
The Sabres have dropped all six games in regulation. They haven't lost seven straight in regulation since their franchise-record run of 14 straight losses without a point from Dec. 29, 2014 to Feb. 3, 2015 – at the height of their tank season.
"Whenever you're struggling, you start to press. That's pretty normal," captain Jack Eichel said after Monday's morning skate. "We're definitely pressing a little bit."
Eichel and Sam Reinhart are at the top of that list. They've both gone without a point for seven straight games – a career-high for Eichel – and each has a minus-9 rating in that stretch. Nothing has worked at 5 on 5 or with the man advantage.
"I find at times our desperation goes up as the game goes on. We need to have that desperation when we come out for a power play two minutes into the game," Eichel said. "It's been frustrating for us but we need to find a way to break through. It's consistency, having a plan and executing it."
"I'm using the word 'confidence' a lot," said coach Ralph Krueger. "You look at Sam and look at Jack's situation at the moment, a lot has to do with confidence. Sometimes what happens is you start forcing other areas when you start not having success. They've just got to get back to the basics and we're trying to simplify things in their mind to then let their genius be able to flow again."
In the nets: Linus Ullmark (16-14-3, 2.72/.914), who has been practicing for nearly a week, returns to the Buffalo net after sitting out since Jan. 28 with an ankle injury. Braden Holtby (25-14-5, 3.14/.897) gets the call for the Capitals.
In the lineup: Jimmy Vesey returns after one game as a healthy scratch while Michael Frolik returns to the press box. Lawrence Pilut skated this morning after recovering from illness but also will be a scratch tonight.
— Mike Harrington (@ByMHarrington) March 9, 2020
Chance for the offense: One thing in the Sabres' favor is the Caps give up goals. Until Saturday's 5-2 win in Pittsburgh, in fact, Washington had gone 10 straight games giving up three goals or more – giving up 36 goals in that stretch for an unsightly average of 3.6 and going just 3-4-3 in that stretch.
The Ovi Report: Caps sharpshooter Alex Ovechkin has 47 goals on the season and 705 for his career. He's three shy of tying longtime Cap Mike Gartner (708) for seventh in NHL history. He has 32 goals in 49 career games against the Sabres.
"It's crazy. Pretty impressive," said Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe. "I remember when I first came into the league and seeing that release and how quickly he gets it off. When you first come into the league and get a look at it, it's eye-opening. Six years later, it's still pretty eye-opening."
"Just impressive what he's done his whole career. He doesn't slow down ever," Eichel said. "It's a privilege to be able to say you played against him at the same time. Just to share the ice with him, not to look too far forward, but he's on pace to do some historical things here and to be part of history is pretty cool."
Ovechkin has 13 power-play goals this year; the Caps are 17th in the NHL with the man-advantage and eighth on the road. Ovechkin firing one-timers in the circle has become an iconic image in the NHL. The Caps are struggling big time of late though, going 0 for 8 over their last three games and 2 for 22 over the last nine.
"It's definitely something you've got to focus on," McCabe said. "He's got a lethal shot and it's definitely one of the things you adjust to when you play the Caps, but by the same token you can't forget the rest of that unit. They're all pretty lethal and pretty skilled. You just can't focus on 'Ovi'."