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Game Preview #4: New Jersey Devils vs. Washington Capitals

It’s another test for the New Jersey Devils, playing the team that won the Presidents’ Trophy last season.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning
The man who needs to be stopped.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Game number four.

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (3-0-0) versus the Washington Capitals (2-1-1). SBN Blog: Jaspers’ Rink

The Time: 7:00 PM

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+

Grit and Grind: Tom Wilson is returning from a four-game suspension. Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post wrote this article on Wilson’s views of his style of play and how his suspension may affect his future actions on the ice. It seems mostly that he believes his game to be clean, which some players on the New Jersey Devils might have a bit of disagreement with. Khurhshudyan also asked Wilson a few questions on the changes in refereeing this season, where Tom Wilson provided this statement on how he will likely feel in his first game back.

Of course, the New Jersey Devils don’t want Tom Wilson flying around and hurting anyone. Part of the key to this game is for the Devils to not get injured and to protect their teammates, while not getting drawn into any unnecessary penalties. While it was definitely not Stefan Noesen’s fault that he got the extra two for instigating with Matt Martin - I was certainly angry at the referee for that - I don’t want to see the Devils getting themselves into the box versus a team that has been undisciplined to start the year. This is something that coach Barry Trotz has given as an area that the Washington Capitals need improvement on. To be specific, the Capitals have been penalized for 20 minor infractions in their first four games of the season. While the Devils have been in the box plenty themselves as well - albeit with 22 of their penalty minutes stemming from fights - discipline has been a continual problem for Washington, having taken 312 minor penalties last year, which was third most in the league. For specifics on the Capitals’ last game versus the Penguins, check out this recap at Jaspers’ Rink. The more the Devils stay out of the box, the more penalties the Capitals will likely take. Such is one of my keys to this game.

Because, if they don’t...: Alex Ovechkin is playing like someone who is trying to come back from a down year. On 25 shots in four games, he has eight goals. Kutznetzov also has eight points - all of them being assists. The Washington Capitals have incredible high-end talent. Unfortunately for them, their depth took a hit over the summer. But as long as their top six can get shots on net, the Capitals have a chance to win the game regardless of how unsustainable some of their ongoing performances are. It is on the New Jersey Devils defense to play better, and suppress more shots, to ensure a competitive game. Not all games will involve as great a goaltender performance as the game in Toronto. And for more on that game, see John’s recap.

Respond to the Attack: This season, the New Jersey Devils have been better at playing “fast, attacking, and supportive”. That must continue tonight for them to defeat the Washington Capitals. Because if the defense is going to be so porous that they cede 40-50 shots per game, it wouldn’t hurt to continue scoring five to six goals per game. It would probably be necessary. Regardless, the more the New Jersey Devils get their opponents to chase them, the better off they are. I would really like to see the the top line get rewarded for some of its generation of chances so far. I'm also hoping that Nico Hischier can bounce back from a rough night in Toronto.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Toronto Maple Leafs
Here’s someone who can quickly move the puck the right direction if used correctly. He's also someone who needs to stay disciplined tonight.
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Lines? For the New Jersey Devils, Andrew Gross of The Record said on Twitter yesterday that there was no practice. Therefore, there is not much to go on in terms of line shifting. However, given the team’s early success, I doubt John Hynes is looking for any drastic changes at this point. And while he didn’t say anything about who the goaltender will be tonight, he did say this:

As for the away team, from Isabelle Khurshudyan Tweeted yesterday:

Aside from that, I have been unable to find much data on the workings of either team in regards to their lines, as the New Jersey Devils had no practice yesterday and the Washington Capitals had a limited practice. If I see any new information prior to game time, I’ll try to get it back here in the comment section for this post.

Old Friends: Marcus Johansson will be playing his former team, this time in the Prudential Center. The Devils will be playing against Devante Smith-Pelly for the first time since they bought him out this past offseason. This is just a minor note going into tonight’s game.

Milestone Watch: Kyle Palmieri already cracked the 200 point mark this year with his two assists. His next goal will bring him to a total of 100 on his career. If the captain Andy Greene gets two points, he will reach 200 points for his career.

The Goal: Continue the hot start. If the top defensive players can quiet the top players of the Washington Capitals, the Devils are on the road to victory.

Your Thoughts: yWhat do you think of the Capitals team so far? Which is less sustainable - the Devils' production or the top six production in Washington? Is there a specific player on either side that you're looking out for? Feel free to respond in the comment section.