Pregame #14: Washington Capitals at New Jersey Devils

Washington Capitals (9-4-0) vs. New Jersey Devils (7-5-1)
Location: Prudential Center
7:00 PM
TV:  Comcast SportsNet (HD) (Game On!), NHL Network
Radio:  1500AM, 820 AM, and XM
Games Remaining:
Nov 11, 2011 NJ@WSH, 7:00 PM
Dec 23, 2011 WSH@NJ, 7:00 PM
Mar  2, 2012 NJ@WSH, 7:00 PM
Familiar Faces of Former Capitals:  C Dainius Zubrus (331 GP, 2001-07)
Our Bloguin Partner:
  Running With the Devils

Happy Veterans’ Day!

Don’t run off!  Read on!

The Washington Capitals are reeling.  Losers of 2 straight and 4 of their last 6, they seem to be rudderless at the moment.  Coach Bruce Boudreau gave them a kick in the right direction when he put them through a bag skate on Wednesday, the day after a lackluster loss to the Dallas Stars.  The Capitals were thoroughly outplayed for all but 10 minutes of that game and were their own worst enemy.  The hustle quotient and the defensive zone coverage should be much better tonight, not least because Mike Green should return from a 6-game absence tonight. 

The New Jersey Devils, on the other hand, are on a 3-game winning streak. Even with all the injuries they have faced and all of the young players on the team, they have started to jell and are finding their identity.  The Devils have been getting timely contributions from unexpected sources and are looking to get back to the playoffs this season.  You can bet new coach Peter DeBoer will have an excellent game plan against the Caps after facing them 6 times last season in Florida, and he has two excellent if aged goalies to choose from for this back-to-back set.  Expect the Devils to continue grinding out excellent hockey for the rest of the season.

Injury Report:   Capitals’ D Mike Green (ankle) is probable.  RW Jay Beagle (head) is out. 
-For the Devils, C Travis Zajac (Achilles), LW Eric Boulton (hand), and C Jacob Josefson (clavicle) are on injured reserve.  LW Ilya Kovalchuk (lower body) is doubtful.

Three Things To Watch For:

Oh, Henrique!:  Devils rookie C Adam Henrique is quickly making a name for himself on the Devils, almost assuredly keeping a spot on the roster even when his injured comrades return.  The Brantford, Ontario, native is on a tear, posting 4 goals and 6 points in his last 4 games while centering Devil dervish Zach Parise.  Just 21, Henrique is maing a name for himself in the clutch: he has scored the game-winning goal in each of his last two games.  Look for him to be a factor tonight.

Can Ovie find his MoJo?:  The way Bruce Boudreau has juggled his lines, it appears as if Alex Ovechkin will be playing with a new center tonight, Marcus Johansson.  So far this season, Ovie has been plagued by his bad habit of trying to do too much with the puck himself instead of letting his center carry the puck.  All 6 of Ovie’s goals have come when he receives the puck in space and quickly puts it away, and now Boudreau is putting a center on his line that’s faster than Ovie and adept at not only carrying the puck, but threading the needle through traffic.  Here’s hoping Ovie pots a couple tonight. 

Czech Mates:  A familiar face is back in a Devils uniform this season.  After 9 years away, Petr Sykora (6 points) has been reunited with his old friend and linemate Patrik Elias (13 points).   Sykora played 445 games for the Devils between 1995 and 2002 before leaving for greener contracts pastures, while Elias has been busy re-writing the Devils’ record books.  Both Czech stars have a pair of Stanley Cups and over 300 goals on their ledgers, and both should play game #1,000 this season.  These two may be graying at the temples, but they are crafty veterans who can make life very difficult for opposing goaltenders, especially on special teams.