Capitals Vs. Sabres: Eighth Place On Line As Teams Battle To Break Tie

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 30: Dmitry Orlov #81 of the Washington Capitals skates past Luke Adam #72 of the Buffalo Sabres as he advances the puck up the ice during a game at Verizon Center on December 30, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

The Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres battle for the opportunity to control their own playoff destinies with a head-to-head matchup at Verizon Center on Tuesday.

Hey, here's a shocker: A game between the No. 8 seed and No. 9 seed in the Eastern Conference played two weeks before the first day of the NHL playoffs is a pretty big deal. The Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres find themselves in that position Tuesday evening at the Verizon Center, where they'll square off in a battle with major playoff implications.

The teams are tied with 84 points and have played the same number of games heading into the evening. Washington holds the tiebreaker with more non-shootout wins than the Sabres, but that'll be irrelevant after tonight. One team will take the points lead following the game, and that team will control its own destiny heading into the final five games of the regular season.

Eastern Conference Race For Eighth
GP
W-L-OT
Pts
3*. Florida Panthers 75 36-24-15 87
----- -- -- --
7. Ottawa Senators 77 39-28-10 88
8. Washington Capitals 76 38-30-8 84
9. Buffalo Sabres 76 37-29-10 84
10. Winnipeg Jets 76 35-33-8 78

The Jets are just about done. Their loss to Ottawa on Monday night seriously hurt their chances at making the playoffs, as what was once a 4.1 percent chance of making the postseason dropped down to a 0.6 percent chance following the loss, according to Sports Club Stats.

That makes Tuesday's Sabres vs. Capitals game that much more important. Both teams are playing strong hockey right now, which explains why they're in the race still while several other squads have fallen off the map. Buffalo has picked up points in all but five of their last 28 games, pulling themselves up from the basement of the Eastern Conference into legitimate playoff contention.

The Capitals, meanwhile, have been paced by the sudden resurgence of star Alex Ovechkin. After scuffling for most of the year, Ovechkin has scored nine goals in seven games and has carried the team on his back to a 6-2-2 record in their last 10.

Braden Holtby will be in net for the Capitals against Ryan Miller for the Sabres.

Buffalo Sabres at Washington Capitals
7 p.m. ET | Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
TV: CSN Washington, MSG Buffalo

You can get more coverage of this one from the Buffalo perspective at Sabres blog Die By The Blade. More coverage from the Washington perspective can be found at SB Nation D.C. and Capitals blog Japers' Rink.

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