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WASHINGTON DC – Goalie Mackenzie blackwood, who has won their last three games, will leave for New Jersey on Thursday night against the Washington Capitals. His counterpart will be Vitek Vanacek.
The rest of the Devils’ roster appears to be the same since their 4-3 win in Philadelphia on Tuesday night. Washington will be without Lars Eller (lower body), but Alex Ovechkin is expected to play.
FIND A BALANCE
New Jersey head coach Lindy Ruff has preached this season that he wants his team to play what he calls “Devils Hockey”. It’s a fast-paced game with an aggressive mentality.
Devils Hockey is a lot like “Capitals Hockey” as Washington enjoys playing a similar style with its highly skilled players. With both teams wanting to play a fast-track style, this could create a pond hockey game.
But just because Ruff wants his team to play fast and aggressively doesn’t mean that she is giving up defensive responsibilities and trading her luck with Washington. There’s a balance that’s needed, and it’s one his team have been able to strike in the previous four fights against the Capitals – which includes a game that saw the two teams combine for just five shots in the third period.
“If you’ve watched some of our games that we’ve played with them, we’ve done a good job in a lot of situations,” he said. “You are looking at two teams who realize that a one-goal lead could be good enough to play the right way.”
The best example of playing Devils Hockey could be the third period of the final meeting between the two teams on March 9. New Jersey erased a 4-1 deficit with three goals while edging Washington, 16-5, in the 20-minute session. It was the perfect execution of the New Jersey style.
“I think (Washington has) a defense as good as anyone in our division and maybe the league. They’re big. They’re strong. It’s hard to generate,” Ruff said. “Last time here our speed got us through their defense. We scored a few goals. We could have scored a few more. That would be my reference to Devils hockey. Play fast, play fast and be able to hit. every lane with speed. “
KEY ON PK
Although the Devils are 0-3-1 against Washington this year, they were happy with their job 5v5. But…
“Our special teams have injured us in many games that we have played for them,” said Ruff.
The Capitals have so many weapons on the power play. Ovechkin is getting a lot of attention for his big shot over the circle. But even if you pulled Ovechkin out of the room with a “shadow,” Washington is still deadly.
“We know the guy we really don’t want to shoot the puck is Ovechkin,” Ruff said. “But when you start to take that off you have (John) Carlson, who has a great strike from the point. If you start to climb too high on him, you have (TJ) Oshie in the hole, who is. one of the best guys at swinging pucks, one of the best guys at catching and releasing on the quick play of small holes. “
Oshie has scored three of the Capitals’ four power play goals against New Jersey this season.
“If you start taking out, they start spinning and moving pieces,” Ruff said. “I think that’s part of the reason they’re one of the best power games in the league.”
As the cliché says, the best way to stop a power play is to stay out of the box.
“If we try to keep the score 5-5 for as long as possible,” Kyle palmieri said: “I think 5v5 we played well as a unit. We were able to produce very good results at this point. Tonight if we adopt the mentality that if we get an advantage digital or a penalty kill, find ways to give our team momentum and keep doing the things that made us succeed 5v5. “
Rookie Defender Ty smith turned 21 on Wednesday. Despite being limited due to COVID-19, the Devils have always found a way to celebrate.
“Ty got a cupcake with some candles,” Ruff said. “We have to sing him happy birthday, which I guess is better than nothing.”
“There haven’t been a lot of celebrations because you can’t really go anywhere. We celebrated on the inside with different milestones for different players.”
DEVILS (12-14-4) vs CAPITAL (20-7-4)
TV: MSG + At 7 p.m. ET
The Devils and the Washington Capitals meet for the fifth time this season. New Jersey are 0-3-1 in previous games but forced an overtime session with a fiery third-period comeback in the last game on March 9. In that game, the Devils overcame a 4-1 deficit with three goals in the third period of Miles wood, Yegor Sharangovich and Damon severson before falling into overtime.
Travis Zajac leads the Devils in the series against Washington with four points, all assists. Sharangovich has scored two best team goals in just three games. Pavel Zacha scored three points (1G-2A) against the Capitals.
Washington’s Jakub Vrana has possessed the Devils so far this season with four goals, including an overtime winner, and six points in four games. Meanwhile, John Carlson and Nicklas Backstrom each have one goal and five points against New Jersey, and TJ Oshie has three goals and four points.
Scope of the Devils team:
New Jersey has improved to 4-1-1 in its last six games after a 4-3 win in Philadelphia on Tuesday night. The Devils received goals from Mike McLeod, Kyle Palmieri, Sharangovich and Travis Zajac and goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood stopped 30 shots.
STK line -Sharangovich, Zajac, Janne Koukkanen – have combined for 10 goals and 25 points in 10 games since joining on March 7. Kuokkanen leads with four goals and nine points. Zajac has eight assists and nine points, while Sharangovich has four goals and five points.
Palmieri scored his first power play goal of the year and sixth overall against the Flyers. Before Jesper bratt extended his streak to five straight games with one assist. Bratt has five points (1G-4A) in the streak, which includes the overtime-winning goal in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Blackwood claimed their third straight victory for New Jersey on Tuesday night. He’s stopped 98 of 104 (.943) shots during that span with a 2.00 goals-against average.
New Jersey are 8-3-2 on the road this season and 2-0 on their current six-game road trip after wins in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Then two games against Washington and Boston.
Scope of the Capitals team:
The Capitals are in a close race with the New York Islanders for first place in the Eastern Division. Washington is only two points behind New York (46-44), but the Capitals have two games in hand. Of course, it’s what you do with these games that makes the difference.
Washington’s rise to the top was fueled by a seven-game winning streak that was snapped against the New York Rangers on Saturday in a 3-1 loss. The Capitals, coming off a rare four-day break in the schedule, are 14-3-1 in their last 18 games, including four wins over New Jersey.
Forwards Alex Ovechkin (lower body) and TJ Oshie (personal reasons) trained with the club on Wednesday. Although head coach Peter Laviolette couldn’t confirm definitively, the two are set to play against New Jersey on Thursday.
In Saturday’s loss to Rangers, forward Tom Wilson returned to the lineup for the first time after serving a seven-game hitting suspension against Boston defenseman Brandon Carlo in a game of the March 5. He collected aid on his return.
Ovechkin leads the club with 14 goals. Before becoming useless on Saturday, Ovechkin had a five-game streak with six total goals and seven points. Nicklas Backstrom leads the team in assists (22) and points (34).
Devils rookie defenseman Ty Smith notched his third career two-point game with a pair of assists in Philadelphia on Tuesday night. He also posted a plus-3 career record. The fast skating defenseman has had four assists in his last four games and a plus-5. He also celebrated his 21st birthday on Wednesday evening.
Capitals defenseman John Carslon has accumulated points in seven of his last eight games (2G-6A). He’s two goals behind Mike Green and Calle Johansson (113) for third place on the franchise’s all-time scorers list by a defender. In 2019-2020, Carlson became the first defenseman to lead the Capitals in scoring (75 points) since Kevin Hatcher in 1990-91 (70).
Devils: Bastian (lower body), Hischier (frontal sinus fracture).
Capitals: Eller (lower body), Ovechkin (lower body), Kempny (Achilles tendon).