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)
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
03/18 12:39:36 ET