By JEFF MEZYDLO
STATS Senior Writer
Though the result of their first game under new general manager Tim Murray was like many others during this disappointing season, the Buffalo Sabres must forge ahead amid their latest organizational move.
Considering their recent struggles in Washington, things might not get any easier Sunday when the Sabres try to avoid matching the longest road losing streak in franchise history and prevent the Capitals from a third consecutive win.
Hours after team president Pat LaFontaine announced the hiring of Murray, Buffalo (12-26-5) saw its five-game home winning streak end with a 2-1 shootout loss to Florida on Thursday.
The 50-year-old Murray is the nephew of Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray. He's spent much of his 20 years in the NHL being mentored by his uncle, including the past seven as the Senators assistant GM. LaFontaine also said Hall of Fame executive Craig Patrick will be a special adviser to assist in turning the NHL's worst team into a contender.
"I'm on a mission to bring the right people here," said LaFontaine, hired in November when GM Darcy Regier and coach Ron Rolston were fired.
"I'm still not done. We still have a lot of work."
Murray didn't waste time making his presence felt Friday when it was reported he will soon lift the interim tag from coach Ted Nolan.
"It's a clean slate here," Murray said Thursday. "There's no preconceived notions. He's the coach of the hockey team, and I'm looking forward to getting to know him."
The Sabres are 8-11-4 under Nolan and in the midst of a 6-0-2 stretch at home. However, they still have the fewest wins and points in the league, and are an NHL-worst 3-14-2 away from home.
Buffalo's 0-9-2 road slide is the second-longest in club history behind a 12-game skid Dec. 17, 2011-Jan. 21, 2012. The longest the Sabres have gone without a road victory is 23 games during the 1971-72 season, and they head to Washington having lost seven of their last eight visits.
Buffalo has totaled 13 goals in the last 11 road games and its 70 non-shootout goals overall are by far the fewest in the NHL, including four over the last four games.
However, the offense could be helped by the return of Cody Hodgson, who was activated from injured reserve Saturday. He leads the team with 19 points despite being sidelined since Dec. 19.
Buffalo was coming off a four-day break when it played Thursday but again provided little support for backup Jhonas Enroth, who made 34 saves but fell to 1-8-4. The Sabres have scored 17 goals with him in net.
"You shouldn't be tired," Nolan told the Sabres' official website. "I don't know. (Thursday) was just one of those games you just want to forget about."
Ryan Miller could be back in net looking to stymie the Capitals (22-16-6) for the second time in two weeks. In the teams' lone matchup this season, Miller made a season-high 49 saves before stopping all six shootout attempts in Buffalo's 2-1 home victory Dec. 29. Miller, however, has a 3.19 goals-against average while losing six of seven at Washington.
Alex Ovechkin's three-game goal streak in this series ended last month after he scored in all three meetings last season - all Capitals wins. He has 13 goals in 16 home contests versus Buffalo.
Ovechkin recorded his league-leading 32nd goal before assisting on Joel Ward's go-ahead score in the third period of Friday's 3-2 home win over Toronto. The Capitals have won two in a row following an 0-2-2 stretch.
"We've been waiting for wins for a bit now," Washington's Nicklas Backstrom told the NHL's official website. "That's what we're hoping. We got to play the same way."
Backstrom has five goals and eight assists in 11 home games against the Sabres.
Updated January 11, 2014