NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, March 18th (All times eastern)
Washington Capitals (41-21-10) at New Jersey Devils (33-33-4), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Though coming off their first loss in almost a month, the Washington Capitals will try to grab a share of the Eastern Conference's top seed, and possibly a playoff spot, as they visit the New Jersey Devils this evening at the Prudential Center.
The Capitals carried a nine-game winning streak into Wednesday's contest at Detroit, but was edged out by a 3-2 score. John Carlson and Alex Ovechkin had the goals and Michal Neuvirth made 32 saves.
Ovechkin scored his 29th goal of the season, leaving him one shy of reaching 30 for the sixth time in as many NHL seasons. He has points in 13 of his past 15 games, totaling eight goals and 11 assists in that span.
"They came at us hard and I think they controlled the game," said Ovechkin. "It was good to bounce back right away and it was fun game to watch and a fun game to play."
Washington also had a club record-tying six-game road winning streak halted in the second contest of a six-game road trip. Still, the Capitals are four points up on the Lightning for first place in the Southeast Division and trail the idle Flyers by two points for the East's top spot. Washington, though, will have played three more games than Philadelphia after tonight and will visit the Flyers on Tuesday.
The Caps haven't lost two straight since a three-game skid from Feb. 8-14 and can also punch their ticket to the postseason with a victory tonight and a regulation loss by ninth-place Carolina versus the New York Islanders.
Washington is trying to reach 20 road wins in a season for a club-record fourth straight campaign and could increase the odds of doing so tonight if Nicklas Backstrom can return from a broken left thumb that has caused him to miss the last five games.
John Erskine (illness) and Eric Fehr (upper body) are both questionable to return tonight as well, while Jason Arnott (undisclosed) and Mike Green (head) remain out.
Arnott will miss the chance to face his former club after being traded to the Capitals from the Devils on Feb. 28 for David Steckel.
The Devils have just four regulation losses in their last 29 games (23-4-2), but remain 12th in the East with 70 points, six back of the eighth-place Sabres, after last night's 3-1 setback in Ottawa. New Jersey is trying to dig itself out of an early-season hole and make the playoffs, but has just 12 games remaining and four teams between it and a postseason spot.
Brian Rolston had the lone goal while Martin Brodeur stopped 22-of-24 shots for the Devils, who had a three-game winning streak halted.
"We played decent. We had our chances, we just didn't score," Devils head coach Jacques Lemaire said.
New Jersey returns home for one game before starting a four-game swing on Sunday. The club is 12-1-1 in its last 14 at the Prudential Center.
Though outscored 12-3 in the two meetings at Washington this season, the Devils routed the Caps, 5-0, in New Jersey on Nov. 22. Johan Hedberg made 30 saves for the shutout and Arnott scored twice against his current team.
Washington has lost three straight and 12 of its last 15 trips to the Garden State, but Neuvirth has won all three of his career starts versus the Devils, allowing just four goals on 99 shots for a 1.34 goals-against average.
With the 38-year-old Brodeur playing last night, the Devils could go with Hedberg in this game. He is 11-6-0 with a pair of ties and 2.45 GAA versus Washington, while Brodeur has dropped three straight to the Caps since a personal four-game winning streak in this series. He has yielded 14 goals over the skid.
03/18 12:39:36 ET