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New Jersey Devils at Washington Capitals: Game 59 Preview

In their last game before the Olympic Break, the Devils head down to the capital to take on the Capitals. This preview looks at the matchup and what the Devils need to do to finish on a high note before the Break.

The Time: 8:00 PM EDT

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+; Radio - MSG Radio.

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (24-21-13) at the Washington Capitals (26-23-9; SBN Blog: Jasper's Rink)

The Last Devils Game: The Devils hosted the Edmonton Oilers in their penultimate game before the Olympic Break. Andrei Loktionov got the scoring started, while Taylor Hall quickly answered back for the Oilers. The Devils hit 3 more posts last night, Cory Schneider made some big saves, and on to OT we went. Unlike the prior 2 OT games, this one ended well for the Devils as Jon Merrill scored his first career NHL goal by blasting one past Ilya Bryzgalov. Jon recapped the action here.

The Last Capitals Game: The Caps hosted the Winnipeg Jets skated away to a 4-2 win as Alex Ovechkin potted his 40th goal on the year. Troy Brower had 2 goals and Braden Holtby had a solid night in net, stepping in for Michael Neuvirth, who was sidelined with an illness. Kevin Klein over at Jasper's Rink recapped it as 2 vital points for the Caps playoff chances.

The Last Devils-Capitals Game: These two teams met back on January 24th and it marked the beginning of end of the Joe Whitney era. The scoring started with Stephen Gionta racing in and firing one past Michael Neuvirth from just above the faceoff circle. For the second goal, Jarmoir Jagr made an incisive pass to an uncovered Adam Henrique who buried it. 2-0 Devils lead. Cory Schneider was a stud, yet again, and it took a deflected goal from Jason Chimera to make the last minutes of this one a nervous affair. Cory would hold the fort and give the Devils a much-needed 2-1 victory. John recapped the game here. The Joe Whitney experiment did not last long as he was sent back to Albany the next day. In the two weeks since, coach Pete DeBoer hasn't settled on a top line, though he's tried different combinations; however, not all of them have left players pleased. Kevin at Jasper's Rink recapped the game here for Caps fans in free-fall.

The Goal: The final 2 points in the standings for nearly 3 weeks are up for grabs. The Devils have to get them. Prior to puck drop against the Caps tonight, the Devils are tied with them at 61 points. A win tonight puts the Devils 1 point behind the Detroit Red Wings for the final Wild Card spot. With 2 dozen games remaining in the season, there are no more excuses, no more silver linings, no more moral victories. The Devils need to start winning with consistency if they hope to avoid the potential embarrassment of yet another playoff-less season. Nothing but a win will do.

The Caps are just above the bottom 10 teams in terms of Fenwick % at 48.7% in close situations. The Devils should be able to control play in this one. Based of their 2 previous wins against the Caps this season, they dominated the shot attempts in the first game, coming from behind to win in OT. The second saw the Caps gain a slight edge in shot attempts.

The Great 8: Alex Ovechkin has been scoring for fun this season. He leads the league with 40 goals, which is 10 more than the next highest amount: Phil Kessel's 30. His trademark setup in the right circle on the PP and his lightning-quick release are things the Devils will have to be on the lookout for. As Ovechkin goes, so do the Capitals.

Ridin' Cory: Tom Gilutti tweeted after last night's game that Schneider will get the start yet again. Honestly, why shouldn't he? 13 straight games without giving up more than 2 goals in regulation? Yes, please. After last night's contest, Schneider now sports a 0.925 Save Percentage in all situations, good for 5th in the league (and only goalie in the top 7 with a sub 100 PDO). In 5-on-5 situations, he's even better at 0.932%, with an even worse PDO. Put any other offense in front of him and the Devils might have won 10 of those games. He's certainly not the problem and Marty should not get another start quite frankly. The Devils need every point they can get, and Schneider gives them the best opportunity to do so.

Your Take: Now I'd like to hear from you. This will be the last Devils game for nearly 3 weeks. What are you watching for tonight? Nearly 60 games in, what are you feelings on the push for a playoff spot?