December 21 vs. New Jersey Devils at Verizon Center
Time: 7:30 pm TV: Versus Radio: 820AM, 1500AM and XM Pre-Game: Pre-Cap pre-game podcast on washingtoncaps.com at 2 p.m.
New Jersey Devils (9-21-2)
Washington Capitals (19-12-4)
Two nights after getting the monkey of an eight-game winless streak off their collective back, the Washington Capitals return home to face the New Jersey Devils.
Tuesday’s tilt marks the third meeting between the Caps and Devils this season. Each of the first two were blowouts with each team winning by five goals in its own building.
The Caps pounded the Devils 7-2 in Washington’s home opener on Oct. 9 and New Jersey returned the favor with a 5-0 whitewash of the Caps in Newark on Nov. 22.
Washington will be seeking to halt a five-game winless streak (0-3-2) on Verizon Center ice. The Caps’ last win at the Phone Booth came on Nov. 28 against the Carolina Hurricanes. The last time the Capitals lost as many as five straight games was early in the 2007-08 season, just prior to the hiring of Bruce Boudreau as the Caps’ head coach.
Washington won its first game in 18 days on Sunday when it rallied from a 2-0 deficit to earn a 3-2 road win over the Senators in Ottawa.
The Capitals started the season right where they left off, putting up a 14-4-1 mark through the season’s first 19 games. But in their last 16 contests, the Caps are just 5-8-3. They know that even though they’ve halted their eight-game skid and inched back into the top spot in the Southeast Division standings, they’ve got a lot of work to do to repair the standings damage of the last month.
“We had a pretty good meeting and I think I spelled it our pretty well this morning,” declared Caps coach Bruce Boudreau after Monday’s optional practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “It’s great to end that number. But it’s not like we all of a sudden have won 10 in a row. We’ve got to get back to basics again and we’ve got to work just as hard and if not, harder to win the next game.
A night earlier in Boston, the Caps fell into a 3-0 first period chasm against a Bruins team that is perfect when leading after 20 minutes this season. The Caps got one in the second and one in the third, but their raging comeback bid fell short despite the fact that they outshot the Bruins by a whopping 26-2 in the third period.
“I thought the last two periods were really good [Sunday] night [against Ottawa],” says Boudreau. “But I don’t care if we won 54 games or what last year, I don’t think we’ve ever played a better third period than we did in Boston.
“Boston, to me, has got a really good team. When you can outshoot them 26-2 in a period, that’s about as good as we can get. It showed a lot of moral fiber or whatever the word is, to come back and at least be able to play the next day at the same emotional level.”
Caps right wing Eric Fehr, who registered a goal and an assist in Sunday’s win over the Senators, has returned to his home in western Canada because of a death in the family. Fehr, who skated on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom in Sunday’s game, will miss Tuesday’s tilt with the Devils.
Goaltender Michal Neuvirth earned the win against the Senators, stopping 24 shots to earn his first win in more than a month and his 13th of the season. Neuvirth has not started more than two straight games since the end of October/beginning of November but would appear to be the likely starter against New Jersey.
Neuvirth made six straight starts from Oct. 23 to Nov. 5. His win over the Senators on Sunday snapped a personal five-game losing streak (0-3-2). Prior to that skid, Neuvirth had earned wins in four consecutive starts.
The 22-year-old Czech goaltender is 2-0 in two career starts against the Devils with a 1.51 GAA and a .952 save pct.
First-year Devils head coach John MacLean has already announced that veteran goaltender Martin Brodeur will start Tuesday’s game against Washington. It will mark the sixth successive start for Brodeur.
One of the greatest netminders of all time, Brodeur is struggling alongside his Devils teammates this season. He is 5-14-1 with a 2.84 GAA and an .896 save pct. Since breaking into the NHL in 1991-92, Brodeur has never finished a season with a losing record.
Washington had five goals on 20 shots against Brodeur in two periods in the Oct. 9 win over the Devils.
“To me, New Jersey is going to be one mad, ornery bunch when we see them,” says Boudreau of the Caps’ upcoming opponent. “They lost 7-1 [in their last game]. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a game where Brodeur got pulled and [played poorly] the next game. He doesn’t get pulled twice in a row.”
New Jersey lugs an eight-game road losing streak with it to Washington. The Devils are 4-13 on the road this season; their last win away from Newark was a 5-3 triumph over the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks in Chicago on Nov. 3.
Since that win, the Devils are 0-8 and have been outscored 28-10 on the road. The team’s current road skid is its longest in 27 years. New Jersey dropped 10 straight road games from Jan. 23-March 5, 1983 and a dozen in a row from Oct. 19-Dec. 1, 1983.
Most recently, the Devils were humbled 7-1 at the hands of the Thrashers in Atlanta on Saturday night.
Averaging just 1.8 goals per game overall, the Devils are 30th in the league in that department. New Jersey is 26th in goals against but does feature the league’s eighth best penalty killing corps. New Jersey’s minus-40 goal differential is the worst in the league.