Good early afternoon from HSBC Arena as the Sabres get their Hockey Day in America game on against the Caps. Faceoff is expected to be just about at the stroke of 12:30 so be ready. And remember, it's an NBC game, not MSG or Versus.
The Caps will be sitting out standout defenseman Mike Green for the fourth straight game. He has been dealing with some inner ear trauma. Semyon Varlamov (9-8-4, 2.32, .921) will start in goal, which means Michal Neuvirth (17-9-4, 2.53, .910) likely gets Monday's showdown in Pittsburgh. The Sabres, of course, will again go with Ryan Miller (24-17-5, 2.74, .910).
The trade deadline is looming, as John Vogl wrote in today's paper after chatting with Darcy Regier Saturday in Amherst's Northtown Center. And be sure to check out Bucky Gleason's Inside the NHL column for more chatter on what the Sabres might do and what might happen around the league.
Want another sign it's coming next week? Check out today's press box roster. There are 23 scouts listed from 20 teams. Now, many of them are Toronto-based and come here all the time. But it is pretty unusual to see two here from Anaheim and one from Vancouver. The teams represented look like this: Montreal (2 scouts), Edmonton (2), Anaheim (2), Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, San Jose, Chicago, Florida, Pittsburgh, NY Rangers, Colorado, Ottawa, St. Louis, Dallas, Carolina, Nashville, Colorado, Boston, Philadelphia. Whew.
Also starting today at 12:30 are Philadelphia at the NY Rangers and Detroit at Minnesota. The national telecast on NBC at 3:30 features still Sidney Crosby-less at Chicago. And at 6 p.m. on Versus and CBC is the Heritage Classic outdoors from Calgary pitting the Flames and Montreal Canadiens. Figures to be great fun.
Rob Niedermayer is back in the Sabres' lineup today. For what that's worth. We'll see who's out when the Sabres hit the ice for warmup. Stay tuned.
Update: Niedermayer is on the ice. But so are Byron, Kaleta and Butler. So no idea who the scratches are yet.
Update II: If you're reading from out of town and can't watch on NBC because of the regional telecasts, you CAN see the game as NBCSports.com is streaming all the action.
BULLETIN: Andrej Sekera is a healthy scratch for today's game. About time. He has been brutal for games on end and that terrible giveaway on the first shift Friday set the tone for the entire game. He's also had no points -- not even an assist -- in the last 19 games. Also scratched are Paul Byron and Craig Rivet. Do we really need to even mention Rivet anymore?
Sabres starters: Niedermayer-Gaustad-Grier-Weber-Morrisonn. Goal: Miller.
Capitals starters: Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble-Alzner-Carlson. Goal: Varlamov.
2:19 p.m.; After the pathetic Internet service here basically shut down and helped lock my laptop for the whole intermission, we're back at it.
17:37 left: Perreault goes for hooking.
15:00 left: No shots on the PP, barely any zone time.
13:06 left: Clock running, not much happening. Varlamov stops Connolly on a good rush. Shots are 3-1 for Buffalo in the period.
12:25 left: What's up at this end of the rink? A crazy bounce from the glass on the other side nearly caught Varlamov off guard.
10:45 left: Morrisonn for interference on Hendricks along the boards. I guess. But I'd like that called every time it happens, not with 11 minutes left in a tie game when we haven't seen it more than, say, once a month.
9:40 left: Perreault bangs home an Ovechkin rebound -- (looked tipped by Johansson?). It was a sensational rush by the Great Eight, who knocked the puck out of the air in his zone with his stick and did a between-the-legs, behind-the-back glove grab to set the puck at his feet and get started. Caps lead, 2-1.
8:20 left: The goal is, in fact, credited to Johansson.
3:15 left: Gerbe stopped by Varlamov. Shots 9-5 for Buffalo. Sabres need to somehow squeeze a point out of this game. Two goals in three home games to start this stand simply doesn't get the job done.
57.2 left: Miller out. Faceoff in Washington zone after Ovechkin steals from Ennis and shoots ice-length backhand wide. Not a great play.
13.7 left: Another icing after Leopold zhitniks one high and wide from the point after a good play at the opposite point by Connolly. Timeout, Lindy.
It's over: A 2-1 loss. An 0-3 homestand thus far with just two goals. Terrible. Shots were 11-5 for Buffalo in the third and 39-29 for Washington in the game.
Of note: Sabres forwards had just three of the eight shots in the first period (one each for Vanek, Pominville and Hecht). Montador had two of the defense's five. ... The Caps' power play is oddly poor this season. It entered today 23rd in the NHL overall at 16.5 percent (22nd at home, 17.0; 18th on road, 15.8). The Sabres entered 16th on the PK (81.5 percent) -- 18th at home and 18th on the road. It was pretty good in the first period with nine shots on goal. Miller, of course, made the difference for Buffalo.
1:27 p.m.: The puck is dropped.
16:08 left: Pretty tight so far. Just looked at the ice time in the first period. Forwards don't get shots when they're not on the ice due to penalties. Stafford (4:32), Vanek (4:42), Pominville (3:38), Gerbe (2:26) and Ennis (2:58) all got their time whacked. Pominville, in fact, played 1:11 of short-handed time.
13:51 left: After all that he did in the first period, Miller is confounded by the glass in his own rink. Puck bounces right off the zamboni entrance in front of Ennis, who was expecting it to go around the boards. Instead, it bounces right in the slot to a wide oepn Mathieu Perreault, who bangs it home for his seventh. Caps lead 1-0.
12:45 left: Shots are 24-11 for the Caps. Miller has far-and-away been the best player on the ice. He needs his teammates to give him some rewards.
11:40 left: Laich goes for goaltender interference. Definitely took out Miller and the crowd had plenty of sarcastic cheers when ref Dave Jackson's hand went up. Buffalo's first power play.
8:18 left: After yet another slowdown and finally an outage of perhaps the NHL's worst press box Internet service, I can tell you the Sabres tied it at 1-1 on Pominville's slapshot on the PP at 8:52. Cross-ice pass from Vanek and a big shot that whizzed over Varlamov's left shoulder. He might have been screened by Scott Hannan skating by. Game is tied at 1-1. Shots are 25-14 for Washington.
3:36 left: Vanek stopped on backhand in alone by Varlamov after a great play by Hecht, who took out a breaking Ovechkin in the Buffalo zone and then fed the puck up ice.
2:44 left: Shots are 31-16 for Washington (15-8 in this period). That's 30 saves for Miller in 37+ minutes.
1:42 left: Miller stops Boyd Gordon in alone after Gordon lost the puck slightly trying to make a move.
End-2nd: Shots were 18-10 for the Caps and 34-18 through two. Game tied, 1-1.
12:35 p.m.: After the anthems were done and we waited two minutes for NBC to give the go-ahead (what happened to 12:30?), we can now say the puck is dropped.
14:12 left: Shots are 3-3 in the early going with Kaleta trying to get the library-quiet crowd into things with a few hits. Varlamov made a solid save on a Vanek one-timer and Miller made a good stop on Semin.
13:38 left: Outgoing minority owners Larry Quinn were just thanked for their service on the HD board. They got underwhelming applause at best. And, of course, no sign of Tom Golisano. But he's watching on TV of course.
12:41 left: A Pominville slapshot leaks through Varlamov's pads but Jeff Schultz sweeps it away out of the crease.
11:10 left: Miller stops Steckel from in tight after a bad Myers giveaway a few seconds earlier. The big guy isn't too far from Sekera territory the way he's been going lately. Shots are 7-4 for the Caps.
9:10 left: Another good shift from the Gaustad line, with a big steal by Niedermayer setting up pressure in the zone. It ends with Gaustad slamming his stick on the end glass as he just missed a puck whizzing through the crease off the back boards.
8:47 left: Hecht for elbowing. Ticky-tack call against Alzner along the boards in front of Buffalo bench.
7:28 left: Miller a rock so far on this power play. He stops Laich from in tight, adds a glove save on Backstrom from the slot after Ovechkin undressed Connolly at the Buffalo line and a stop on Carlson from the point. All good chances.
6:40 left: Sabres survive as Miller makes a good stop on Ovechkin just after Hecht returns. Shots are 11-6, Caps.
6:21 left: Myers for boarding after a huge shot on Boyd Gordon. Jeez. It's not a tennis match.
5:55 left: Gaustad for cross checking and Lindy Ruff just went beserk on the bench. Grabbed a stick and starting banging the boards. Another marginal call at best.
5:11 left: Miller makes his best save seemingly in weeks, robbing Backstrom with the glove just to the left of the crease after a howitzer from the point by Ovechkin.
4:19 left: Miller with more robbery on Backstrom on a rebound off the back boards. The crowd is up. No. 30 has to be the best player in situations like this and so far, he is.
3:30 left: Sabres survive and get a big hand from the crowd. Shots are 14-6.
1:54 left: Morrisonn for cross-checking near the Buffalo net. Killed a 2-on-1 break. Stephane Auger, notorious as one of the worst officials in the NHL, is not high on anyone's list so far in this one.
End-1st: Marcus Johansson just fails to tip one home at the buzzer after a terrible giveaway by Connolly in the final three seconds. Get that guy outta here. Shots are 16-8 for Washington.