Pregame primer: Caps face NHL's worst team

Pregame primer: Caps face NHL's worst team
December 29, 2013, 1:00 pm
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Oates: I have to get Fehr on the ice

(Timothy T. Ludwig)

News and notes as the Capitals [20-14-4] visit the Buffalo Sabres [10-24-4] at First Niagara Arena [5 p.m., CSN]:

Scraping the barrel: The Sabres own the worst record in the NHL, have scored the fewest goals [69] and have the worst goal differential [minus-40]. “They have hard time, but I think every team has that kind of moment,” Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said. “It is what it is.” The Sabres have been better lately, going 4-2-2 in their last eight games, including a 4-2 win over the Bruins. “Obviously, you have to be really careful that you take them too lightly,” Caps coach Adam Oates said. “They’ve won a bunch of their last eight games. They’re playing free-er, looser, and sometimes that’s dangerous. Anybody can beat anybody, that’s the attitude you have to have.”

Trending: While the Sabres have found some traction under new coach Ted Nolan, the Caps are trying to win back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 8-10 against the Rangers and Lightning. The Caps are 2-2-1 in their last five. The Caps are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games against the Sabres.

Breaking the spell: Ovechkin has gone two games without a goal for just the fourth time this season. He has not gone three games without a goal since last year’s playoffs when he scored one goal in a seven-game elimination against the Rangers. Ovechkin leads the NHL with 30 goals but is a team-worst minus-14.

[RELATED: Adam Oates says Braden Holtby is still 'the man' for Caps]

Olympic invitation: Caps defenseman John Carlson could be days away from fulfilling his dream as a U.S. Olympian. The 23-year-old native of Natick, Mass., ranks 12th among U.S.-born defensemen with 15 points this season, and fifth in average ice time at 24:41. The U.S. Olympic team is expected to be announced after Wednesday’s Winter Classic.

Special teams: The Caps have moved into first place in the NHL’s power-play rankings with a 25.9 percent success rate. The Sabres rank 28th at 12.7 percent. The Caps rank 18th on the penalty kill at 81.6 percent]; the Sabres rank 20th at 81 percent.

Leaderboard: Left wing Matt Moulson leads the Sabres in goals [13], assists [13] and points 26. No one else on the Sabres has 20 points. Caps center Nicklas Backstrom leads the club in assists [34] and points [44].

Going home: Capitals assistant coach Calle Johansson was drafted by the Sabres in the first round [14th overall] of the 1985 NHL draft. He played 118 games for Buffalo from 1987-89.

Look ahead: The Caps will head to Ottawa after tonight’s game, where they’ll play their third game in four nights against the Senators.