Capitals

Falcons hope to have Weatherspoon, Jerry this week

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Falcons hope to have Weatherspoon, Jerry this week

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) The Atlanta Falcons could be closer to full strength on defense the next time they take the field.

Coach Mike Smith said Monday linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and defensive tackle Peria Jerry could return to practice late this week, increasing their chances to play Sunday at New Orleans.

Weatherspoon, one of the team's leading tacklers, missed Sunday night's 19-13 win over Dallas with a sprained right ankle. A first-half knee injury knocked Jerry out of the game.

The Falcons (8-0) remain the NFL's only unbeaten team.

The loss of Weatherspoon robbed the defense of one of its big-play leaders. He has 60 tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery and had 10 or more tackles in four of the team's first seven games.

Smith said Weatherspoon is making progress in his recovery.

``This is basically his eighth day of intensive treatment and we're hoping we're going to be able to get him out,'' Smith said. ``He progressed well through the first week and we're just going to have to see. I think like last week we'll know where he's at by Wednesday or Thursday.''

Though Weatherspoon didn't play, he caught Smith's attention on the sideline.

``I saw him moving up and down the sideline, helping us and assisting us with making sure everybody knew what the calls were,'' Smith said. ``He was doing a very nice job.''

Jerry, a first-round pick in 2009, hurt his left knee in his second game of his rookie season. Jerry made a slow recovery, making no starts in 2010 and only four starts in 2011. He has started every game this season.

Smith said Jerry's injury is not serious.

``It's more of a swelling situation and we've got to get the swelling down,'' Smith said. ``There are no ligaments or cartilage issues. ... We're hoping we'll get him a few days rest and let him get a lot of treatment and he'll be back out there with us.''

Corey Peters, in only his second game since his return from a left foot injury, was on the field for 36 snaps. Much of Peters' playing time came after Jerry's injury.

``Corey got more snaps than actually we wanted him to play simply because of the injury to Peria,'' Smith said. ``I think in another week or two he'll be ready to get back to his normal snap count that he was at last year when we were using him as a starter.''

Smith said he spoke with Peters shortly before meeting with reporters on Monday.

``I said `I think you've still got some rust on you,''' Smith said. ``He said `Yeah I know.' ... Actually he said `You don't need to tell me that.' I said `Yes I do.'''

Linebacker Akeem Dent helped replace Weatherspoon. Dent and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux shared the team lead with seven tackles. Dent had a pass deflection.

``I think Akeem Dent played his best game of the season by far,'' Smith said. ``The thing I'm most proud of is the way he handled the huddle.

``That's not easy to really play your first full game at the mike linebacker position on a Sunday night game.''

Even short-handed, the defense played well in the win over Dallas. The Cowboys were successful on only three of 10 third-down plays and were held to 65 yards rushing.

``They played us as tough as any team we played so far this season,'' said defensive end John Abraham. ``In spite of that, we still found a way to win. I think this win will only help us to continue to build momentum.''

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE

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3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.