The Time: 7:00 PM EDT
The Broadcast: TV - MSG ; Radio - 660 AM & 101.9 FM WFAN
The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (36-31-7) vs. the Washington Capitals (52-15-5; SBN Blog: Japers' Rink)
The Last Devils Game: Last night the Devils defeated the Penguins 3-0 thanks to Scott Wedgewood's strong goaltending and a strong counter attack. Kyle Palmieri had 2 goals and Adam Henrique the other. Reid Boucher and Damon Severson had 2 assists each with Travis Zajac and Devante Smith-Pelly picking up one each. The Devils top pair of Adam Larsson and Andy Greene played 27:13 and 25:43 respectively as they helped Wedgewood pick up his first career shutout. Blake Pietila had a solid NHL debut with 2 shots and 8 hits in 12:17. Pittsburgh controlled most of the game, out-shooting the Devils 39-24 and out-attempting them 66-27 at even strength. Here is John's recap of the game.
The Last Capitals Game: Washington defeated Ottawa 4-2 on Tuesday night in Ottawa. The victory clinched the Metropolitan Division and top seed in the Eastern Conference for the Capitals. Jason Rogers has the full recap on Japers' Rink. Mike Richards, Alex Ovechkin, and Nicklas Backstrom had the first 3 goals for the Capitals before T.J. Oshie added an empty net goal. Braden Holtby picked up his 44th victory of the season as he stopped 28 shots. Here is the gamesheet.
The Last Devils-Capitals Game: These teams last met on February 20 in Washington with the Capitals walking away with a 4-3 win. Both sides traded goals through the first two periods with Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri scoring for the Devils and Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov for the Capitals. Reid Boucher scored midway through the 3rd period for his 3rd point of the night to give the Devils a 3-2 lead. As John noted in the title of his recap of this game, the Devils "snatched defeat from the jaw of points." T.J. Oshie tied the game up a few minutes after Boucher's goal by creating some havoc in front of the Devils net. Then just a few more minutes later, Kuznetsov would find Brooks Orpik all alone for the game winning goal. The Capitals outshot the Devils 32-24. Cory Schneider made 28 saves while Braden Holtby made 21. Here is the gamesheet.
The Goal: Be smart and play disciplined hockey. The talent gap between these two teams is obvious so it's imperative that the Devils put themselves in a position to succeed. Stopping Washington's offense at even strength is hard enough and even more challenging when down a man. The Capitals head into this game with the league's 2nd best PP at 23.2%. The Devils PK ranks in the middle of the pack at 81.9%, but they are without the services of Cory Schneider. With all due to respect to tonight's likely starter Keith Kinkaid or even Scott Wedgewood should he start, the Devils just can't afford to take dumb penalties tonight or it could cost them.
Not to Sleep on Washington's PK: It wouldn't be fair to mention the Capitals strong PP without acknowledging their PK which currently ranks 4th in the NHL at 84.4%. The Devils PP has been opportunistic at 20.6% this season so this could be an interesting match up in tonight's game.
The Capitals Offense: Evgeny Kuznetsov currently leads the Capitals forwards with 73 points in 72 games. He's followed by Nicklas Backstrom with 65 points in 69 games, Alex Ovehckin with 64 points in 70 games, Justin Williams with 49 points in 72 games, T.J. Oshie with 45 points in 72 games, and Marcus Johansson with 39 points in 64 games. Most recent lines in practice according to the Washington Post: Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Justin Williams, Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Marcus Johansson, Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson, Daniel Winnik - Mike Richards - Stanislav Galiev. T.J. Oshie is likely to miss tonight's game due to the flu according to the Washington Post.
The Capitals Defense: John Carlson and Matt Niskanen lead the Capitals blue line in points (31 and 29 respectively) and in ice time with an average of more than 24 minutes per night. Karl Alzner is averaging more than 21 minutes per night while Brooks Orpik is just under 20 minutes. All of Washington's regular defensemen have CF% north of 50% except for Carlson and Alzner whom are around 48% according to Corsica. Most recent pairings in practice according to the Washington Post: Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik - Dmitry Orlov, Nate Schmidt - John Carlson, Mike Weber - Taylor Chorney. According to the Washington Post, John Carlson is likely to return to the line up after missing time with a lower body injury.
Likely Goaltending Matchup: I expect the Devils to put Keith Kinkaid in goal tonight with this being the 2nd half of a back-to-back. I also imagine they don't want him to sit for 3 consecutive games and would like to give him a chance to get his confidence back after a few rough outings. Overall, Kinkaid has had an up and down season as evidenced by his 8 to 5 Quality Start to Really Bad Start ratio according to Hockey Reference. He's currently sporting a dismal .899 SV% and has been worth -8.52 Goals Saved Above Average according to Hockey Reference. Of course, the Devils may just stuck with the hot hand in Scott Wedgewood for tonight's game. Braden Holtby is Washington's starter and having a great year with 44 wins, a .921 SV%, 37 Quality Starts, and 8.79 Goals Saved Above Average according to Hockey Reference. They may choose to rest Holtby a bit down the stretch, in which case backup, Philipp Grubauer may appear. He currently has a .924 SV%, 7 Quality Starts, 3.59 Goals Saved Above Average in 13 starts and 19 appearances this season.
Your Take: What are you looking forward to tonight? Which goaltender do you hope starts? What do you hope to see out of the new players like Vojtech Mozik and Blake Pietila? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!