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Game Preview #61: New Jersey Devils vs. Washington Capitals

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As Ovechkin looks for 700, the Devils will probably just be looking to escape.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Washington Capitals
Let's score today.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (23-27-10) versus the Washington Capitals (37-17-6)

The Time: 1:00 PM

The Broadcast: TV - MSG+

700: Alex Ovechkin got the 699th goal of his career on Thursday, and will be looking to get to 700 tonight. This season, Ovechkin has 41 goals and 17 assists in 59 games. There’s a good chance that Ovechkin will post his highest even strength goal total since his age 24 season when he had 37. This season, with 22 games to play, he has 29 even strength goals. He has had three hat tricks already in the 2020 calendar year - and the most he’s ever had was four in the 2017 calendar year. His hat tricks since January were against the Devils on January 16, the Islanders on January 18, and the Kings on February 4. I do not think it needs to be said that Ovechkin really wants 700.

Practice Lines: Yesterday, Amanda Stein posted the lineups for tonight’s game.

This likely means that Nick Merkley will also miss tonight’s game with swelling in his eye. He did practice yesterday but had a full face-mask on. I was pleased with the Dakota Mermis and Damon Severson pairing last night, so I have no problems with one pairing on defense. As for the top and third pairs, I do have problems. Colton White and Connor Carrick got absolutely demolished in every metric last game, and there is not much of a good reason to keep them together. Carrick has not been good this season and White has been bad at even strength (but not on the penalty kill). The Devils should consider bringing up their best right-handed defenseman in Binghamton (likely Josh Jacobs) to see if that pairing might be a bit more defensively capable.

The Devils by all indications are tanking for the rest of the season. What they don’t have to do is have a defensive pairing so bad it makes it impossible for young forwards to continue making improvements with them on the ice - because the Devils are often hemmed in and rarely playing offense with White and Carrick on the ice.

Injury Report: Here’s your injury report for today:

With the trade deadline looming, Sami Vatanen really needs to get back on the ice. I presume the Devils want to trade him, though at this point they might need a defenseman for next season...

Schneider: MacKenzie Blackwood is listed first on that lineup sheet, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Cory Schneider tonight. Since December 18 with Binghamton, Schneider is 7-3-0 and has a .931 save percentage. Personally, I think this is probably closer to the pace that Schneider should be getting games than John Hynes was giving him at the start of the season. Yesterday, Alain Nasreddine told the media that there will be no set rotation for the rest of the season and that “it will be more of an even workload”. This could mean that the Devils play him tonight, though I’m not too sure about that with Ovechkin on the ice tonight.

Your Thoughts: What do you think about tonight’s game? Are you going to be able to watch? Are you expecting Ovechkin to score his 700th goal? Which line and/or pairing do you think he might score against? How do you feel about Jack Hughes continuing to be the first line left wing? How do you feel about Pavel Zacha centering the second line? Should Travis Zajac be given the Ovechkin matchup, or is Miles Wood too much of a defensive liability to use Zajac as a shutdown center? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.