By Mike Harrington
In his pregame briefing with reporters this afternoon, interim coach Ted Nolan said he will use the same lineup as he did in Friday's shootout loss in Toronto and will start off at least with the same lines. That means Alexander Sulzer will again be a healthy scratch.
"To make a change just to make a change doesn't seem right," Nolan said. "Defense wasn't our problem the last game."
Nolan initially hedged when asked who would be in goal and then said Ryan Miller "probably" will play. But the look on his face was one of I-dont-really-want-to-say-but-I-just-did.
The Capitals have the NHL's top power play at 25.9 percent, no surprise when the lineup includes NHL goal leader Alexander Ovechkin and his league-high 12 goals on the power play. The Sabres are just 20th on the penalty kill and 12th at home. Their first priority, Nolan said, is simply to not take penalties at all.
The Sabres have taken 11 penalties in the last three games, killing nine. The Caps, conversely, have scored a power-play goal in seven of their last eight games.
"If we are going to take a penalty, if there's such a thing as a good penalty, we have to make sure it's a good one," Nolan said. "Not one of those lazy ones that are 200 feet from our end, in the offensive zone or neutral zone. It has to be a good penalty for us to have the spirit to kill it off."
The Sabres also have to figure out their second-period struggles. When Nolan arrived, they had been outscored, 27-3, in the first period but that deficit is just 10-8 in his 18 games. In the middle frame, however, the Sabres have been outscored, 21-9, under Nolan when their deficit was just one (18-17) under Ron Rolston.
The Sabres' 2-0 lead went poof-in-the-Toronto night in the second period Friday as the Maple Leafs scored all three of their goals.
"We had we thought that problem fixed and then all of a sudden the last game, there's no answer for the way we played," Nolan said. "There was just one mistake after another mistake, one turnover after another turnover. It was just very uncharacteristic of the way we've been playing lately."
More bad news for the Sabres: Ovechkin has gone scoreless the last two games -- and hasn't failed to score in three straight all season. He had 12 shots on goal over the last two games so he certainly seems overdue.
taggedSabres game day | Washington Capitals