(WGR 550) - Linus Ullmark will be back between the pipes on Friday for the Buffalo Sabres after missing two games due to the death of his father.
This will be Ullmark’s second start of the season. The first was a 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals in Buffalo last Friday night. That gives Ullmark a 2.07 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.
The Sabres' goaltending of Ullmark, Carter Hutton and Jonas Johansson has a combined .881 save percentage. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks are worse.
Hutton is not on this road trip due to a head injury.
Ralph Krueger said Kyle Okposo is a game-time decision, but he’s more likely to play Sunday than on Friday. Okposo hasn’t played yet this season with a lower-body injury.
Washington will be without Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov and Ilya Samsonov. All are under COVID-19 quarantine after violating NHL protocols.
Despite missing four key players this weekend, Krueger warned his team not to take the Capitals lightly.
“We did speak about it today, and what’s really going to be clear is the players coming in, they will be lethal today," Krueger said in his pregame Zoom conference call. "They will work so hard. It will be an aggressive group that comes at us with a little less skill, but they’ll make up for it with fight, so we’re definitely aren’t relaxed here.”
The Sabres were shut out Tuesday in Philadelphia against the Flyers, but Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall are still eighth in league scoring with six points. Eichel leads the NHL with six assists.
Eichel wasn’t happy that his line was minus-2 against the Flyers, and Hall said it’s just a question of converting on the opportunities they had.
“I thought we played pretty well as a line," Hall said on Friday. "We had the lion’s share of the chances, but if your top guys are minus-1 or minus-2 at the end of the night, it’s usually not going to end up in the "W" column. We have to find a way to correct that.
“We’re expected to outscore our opponents when playing on a line with Jack and Sam and for us to win games this year, that’s going to have to be the case and that’s a fun pressure to have.”
The Sabres have played well in their last three games, but only have one win to show for it. This is a golden opportunity to make up some points against a severely shorthanded Capitals team. It’s very early in the season, but they have to improve on their 1-3-0 record, and do it fast.
On a side note, Washington is 7-1-1 in its last nine against the Sabres.
Vitek Vanecek got his first NHL start in Buffalo on Jan. 15 and took home a 2-1 victory. This season, the rookie is 1-0-1 with a 2.97 goals-against and .902 save percentage. With Samsonov out, former Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson is the backup to Vanecek.
Join Mike Schopp and the Bulldog for pregame coverage starting at 6 p.m. EST when they’ll be joined by Krueger, Eichel, Hall and Rasmus Dahlin.
Photo: Micheline Michaelina (@MiMiV4682)