It's a busy morning at HSBC Arena featuring Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals taking their pregame paces after the Sabres. On the Buffalo side, Nathan Gerbe is up from Portland but the Buffalo lineup is not set.
Gerbe will go in at forward but coach Lindy Ruff said he's hopeful Andrej Sekera will, in fact, play tonight despite his bruised ankle. Sekera and Nathan Paetsch will probably both take the warmup before a decision is made.
The Capitals, meanwhile, have called up 21-year-old goaltending prospect Michal Neuvirth from Hershey because starter Semyon Varlamov -- who is 12-1-2 and blanked the Sabres Nov. 25 in Washington -- suffered a lower-body injury Monday in Tampa. Varlamov is day-to-day and will likely be replaced tonight by Jose Theodore (7-3-4, 3.07).
As for Gerbe, he had 20 points at Portland but only five goals. Ruff made it clear he wants Gerbe here to try to pump an offense that has just three goals in the last eight periods.
"You would hope for more production [from Gerbe at Portland]," Ruff said. "He's had a better two-way game but I don't think there's any secret that if he's going to stick in the NHL, he's going to be a goal scorer. He's not going to be a checker."
Gerbe said he's been pleased with his two-way game in Portland, including time on the Pirates' penalty-killing units, but understands he needs to score if his NHL career is going to amount to much.
"Five goals is not where I want to be but I've got to shoot the puck more," he said. "A lot of talks with [Portland coach] Kevin Dineen. He felt like I was trying to be a playmaker too much trying to set up my linemates. Especially on the power play last year, I was shooting the puck every time I got it. You shoot the puck and bounces go in."
Key stat note for the night: Washington leads the NHL on the power play at 24.4 percent (30-for-127) while Buffalo rank third in PK at 85.3 percent (81-for-95). The Sabres have killed 44 of the last 48 penalties against them.
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