WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin has been the talk of the town in recent days and he was pretty much the talk of the Buffalo Sabres' locker room today after their pregame skate prior to tonight's showdown against the Capitals.
Ovechkin will be looking to score in six straight games for the first time since the 2008-09 season and he figures to get double-shifted as the Capitals are again dressing seven defensemen. With that setup Sunday against Minnesota, Ovechkin played an eye-popping 26:19, his second-highest total of the season.
The Sabres want to match up the Ville Leino-Derek Roy-Jason Pominville line against the Great Eight but Caps coach Dale Hunter will have the last change. And besides, it's going to be a group effort anyway.
"Tonight we're going to need two lines," said coach Lindy Ruff. "They've got Ovechkin playing on two different lines, double-shifting him. He's playing 25+ minutes. All of our lines are going to have to be responsible. [The Roy line] is going to have to do a good job. Our defense pair that's out there against them too. We know what he's capable of doing. If you give him space and time, give him anything on the rush, he's a dangerous player."
"We know they like to throw it down his wing and he likes to skate the puck up the ice, get a shot from the middle," Roy said. "Mostly, we have to keep him to the outside and always be aware of where he is because he always seems to find open spots. He likes to push the pace in his own zone a lot of times and read the play. When they get the puck in the defensive zone, you always have to watch out
because he might be taking off."
The Sabres are getting Patrick Kaleta back and he'll play with his broken thumb (that he jokingly referred to as a sore foot). Travis Turnbull has been sent back to Rochester.
"It's exciting," Kaleta said. "I honestly don't really like sitting out and watching my teammates. I take it pretty hard and do everything in my power to be able to be ready and prepare myself to play and it should be a fun game tonight."
After a couple weeks of fans and media pointing to this game and the players having to stay with their tunnel vision on the next game, there was a good vibe in the locker room that the big one was finally here.
"It's good to be here. Obviously, we've heard a lot about it," said captain Jason Pominville. "We've talked a lot about it and to finally be here and see what's at stake is a pretty huge opportunity for us. We have to make sure we take advantage of it."
Click below to hear audio from Ruff and the players today.