Capitals (0-3-1, 1 point) vs. Buffalo Sabres (2-2-0, 4 points)

Game » 5

When » Sunday, Jan. 27

Where » Verizon Center

TV » Comcast SportsNet HD

Radio » WJFK-FM 106.7; WFED-AM 1500

Capitals coach Adam Oates had a simple message for his team, which played better Friday night in an overtime loss to New Jersey, but still finds itself winless on the season:

“What I said to the guys is, ‘You play like you did the other night and I’ll take 10 losses in a row if you play like that because it will turn one time and then we won’t lose,’” Oates said.

Really? Oates’ demeanor softened a bit and he smiled.

“If they play like that, yes, I will. I don’t know if I’m allowed to,” Oates cracked. “But the point is, you play like that, it will turn. You don’t play like that, you can win a game, which obviously you need, but you win the wrong way, that will bite you in the butt later on, too.”

And so Oates will stick with basically the same lineup as he had on the ice in Newark. The only difference is Marcus Johansson will be the healthy scratch along with defensemen Tom Poti and Roman Hamrlik. Johansson, 22, is struggling through the first four games of the season. He started on the top line at left wing in the first two games, but has slid all the way to the fourth line since. He is a team worst -5.

“It’s the same for every single guy and it always has been. You’ve got to evaluate yourself, listen to what the coach says, take what you want out of it,” Oates said. “You’re supposed to play the way that that system is and what that coach wants. And he’s been trying. It’s not that. He’s been a little bit unlucky and caught out there and a little bit of bad luck. But I just want to give him a breather because sometimes when it’s not going your way and you’re a young kid, it can snowball.”

Michal Neuvirth played well again in goal against the Devils and earns his third start in a row over Braden Holtby. Both John Erskine and Jeff Schultz played well enough on the blueline to earn another game.

Sabres forward Thomas Vanek, who has three goals and six assists in just four games, is out with an undisclosed injury. Given the heartburn he’s caused the Caps over the years. He has 10 goals and 10 assists in 27 career games vs. Washington. Here is the expected lineup for the Caps.

Alex Ovechkin – Jay Beagle – Joey Crabb

Wojtek Wolski – Nicklas Backstrom – Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera – Mike Ribeiro – Joel Ward

Matt Hendricks – Mathieu Perreault – Eric Fehr

Karl Alzner – Mike Green

John Erskine – John Carlson

Jeff Schultz – Tomas Kundratek

Michal Neuvirth

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