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Season preview: Buffalo Sabres


Season preview: Buffalo Sabres

To get you ready for the 2015-16 season, we will be previewing all 30 NHL in 30 days, division by division. Check the bottom of the page for a schedule of each preview.

Today’s team: Buffalo Sabres

2014-15 record: 23-51-8, 8th in the Atlantic

How they finished: Did not make the playoffs

Coach: Dan Bylsma (1st season)

Notable additions: G Robin Lehner, C David Legwand, C Ryan O'Reilly, LW Jamie McGinn, C Jack Eichel

Notable subtractions: D Nikita Zadorov, C Cody Hodgson, G Anders Lindback, D Andrej Meszaros

RELATED: Report: Russian defenseman in talks with Caps

Schedule against the Capitals: Mon. Dec. 28 at Buffalo, Wed. Dec. 30 at Washington, Sat. Jan. 16 at Buffalo

Outlook: Despite a horrific 2014-15 season, the long winter in Buffalo may finally be over. 

The Sabres may have missed out on the Connor McDavid sweepstakes, but Jack Eichel is a pretty good consolation prize. Eichel alone, however, is not what Sabres fans should be excited about.

For my money, Buffalo is the most improved team in the NHL. That doesn't mean I think Eichel is better than McDavid--he's not-- but let's face it, the Sabres were an embarrassment last season. Now, their roster looks fairly competitive. They're not the best team, they just had the highest hill to climb and they made up the most ground.

Along with the notable additions mentioned above, the Sabres also added Evander Kane, who did not play after being traded to Buffalo last season, and head coach Dan Bylsma who led Pittsburgh to a Stanley Cup in 2009.

So what's holding them back? Look at the additions again. Notice something? The Sabres did not do much to improve defensively. Josh Gorges, Rasmus Ristolainen, Zach Bogosian and Mike Weber will likely make up the top four and after that, it's anyone's guess. There's a handful of young options the Sabres can turn to including Jake McCabe, but chances are the third pairing will be a weakness for the team this season.

Buffalo is also taking a gamble in net by turning the keys over to Robin Lehner. Lehner has a 2.88 GAA and .914 save percentage in 86 NHL games and is coming off a concussion that limited him to 25 games last season. The Sabres, however, are all in on Lehner as Chad Johnson is his backup. Johnson is a dependable backup, but not someone the team can turn to for an extended period of time if Lehner doesn't pan out. There's no Plan B in net.

One other slight problem, on the heels of signing his seven-year, $52.5-million contract with the Sabres, O'Reilly drove into a Tim Hortons while impaired and could face punishment from the team and the league.

Expectations: As much as this team appears to have improved, it is all based on potential. We don't know how well Eichel will be as a rookie, how well Kane will be on a new team after shoulder surgery, O'Reilly's status or if Lehner is truly ready to be a No. 1 goalie. 

The Sabres can make things interesting and will be in the mix for the postseason for the majority of the season, but will ultimately fall short. Still, they're on the right track and after the worst two-year stretch in team history, fans will likely just be happy to see their team competitive again.

MORE CAPS: How good was the Caps offseason?

See more team previews:

Pacific Division 
Anaheim Ducks 
Arizona Coyotes 
Calgary Flames 
Edmonton Oilers 
Los Angeles Kings
San Jose Sharks 
Vancouver Canucks

Central Division 
Chicago Blackhawks 
Colorado Avalanche
Dallas Stars
Minnesota Wild
Nashville Predators 
St. Louis 
Winnipeg Jets

Atlantic Division 
Boston Bruins
Detroit Red Wings 8/17 
Florida Panthers 8/18 
Montreal Canadiens 8/19 
Ottawa Senators 8/20
Tampa Bay Lightning 8/21 
Toronto Maple Leafs 8/22

Metropolitan Division 
Carolina Hurricanes 8/23 
Columbus Blue Jackets 8/24 
New Jersey Devils 8/25 
New York Islanders 8/26 
New York Rangers 8/27 
Philadelphia Flyers 8/28 
Pittsburgh Penguins 8/29 
Washington Capitals 8/30

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Game 75 Capitals at Canadiens Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 75 Capitals at Canadiens Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Montreal Canadiens

Where: Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Canadiens will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


The Capitals (43-24-7) take on the Canadiens (27-36-12) Saturday, March 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Montreal.


The Capitals-Canadiens game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. for postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals at Canadiens
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime


You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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Touted Prospect Shane Gersich signs with Caps, joins team immediately


Touted Prospect Shane Gersich signs with Caps, joins team immediately

The Caps signed University of North Dakota forward Shane Gersich, a fifth round selection in 2014 and one of the organization’s top prospects, on Friday morning, the team announced.

Gersich, a left shot who is listed at 5-11, 175-pounds, has already joined the team in Montreal, where the Caps play the Canadiens at Bell Centre on Saturday night.

His contract, which begins this season, carries an average annual value of $925,000.

It’s unclear when Gersich will make his NHL debut, but it could happen at some point in the Caps’ final eight games before the playoffs.


NBC Sports Washington has been told that the primary objective for Gersich in the coming weeks is to get his first taste of the NHL by observing—and practicing alongside—his new teammates in Washington. If the opportunity to get him into the lineup presents itself, then it’s possible he’ll suit up.

The 21-year-old just completed his third season at UND. Here are Gersich’s numbers from junior and college, courtesy of


At UND, the smooth-skating and skilled Gersich also produced this memorable goal vs. Denver:

Gersich has been assigned jersey No. 63 in Washington, according to the Caps’ website.

The addition of Gersich and subsequent subtraction of Travis Boyd, who was reassigned to Hershey on Friday morning, leaves the Caps with 14 forwards on the roster.

“I think he did a great job at rookie camp,” Caps GM Brian MacLellan said of Gersich in July. “He was one of our best players, if not the best player, at camp. Really happy about the way he’s progressed and where we picked him. I think Ross Mahoney did a great job with that pick.”