In this condensed season, there’s going to be the odd series of games now and again. The New Jersey Devils have already felt the brunt of that, playing an astounding 14 games in 25 days. But the strangest road trip begins tonight, when New Jersey opens an away-and-away series with the Washington Capitals.
It’s the first time in franchise history that New Jersey will play consecutive road games against the same opponent.
“It is a little different, but I think with the schedule a lot of things are going to happen differently that you’re not used to or usually don’t happen,” David Clarkson told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “So, I think it will be nice to get there, play tomorrow and have the day (Friday) to practice. So, that will be good.”
New Jersey has lost two of its last three games, scoring just one goal in those contests. The Ottawa Senators defeated the Devils, 2-1, in a shootout Monday at the Prudential Center. Stephen Gionta scored just 1:39 into regulation, giving his team the early edge. But New Jersey failed to capitalize on that score, and Daniel Alfredsson took advantage, netting the game-tying goal in the third period. Jakob Silfverberg scored the only shootout goal, beating Martin Brodeur over the glove in the second round.
After a five-game win streak propelled them to the top of the conference standings, the Devils have fallen behind the Montreal Canadiens. They are tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Atlantic Division lead.
Brodeur stressed the need for New Jersey to right the ship after a tough three-game stretch.
“We’re going on a road trip here and its important we get back to the type of hockey we’re capable of playing,” the Devils goalie said after Monday’s loss. “We’re showing signs of it, but for whatever reason the 60 minute effort isn’t there as of late.”
The Capitals are in unfamiliar territory. They’re last in the Eastern Conference with 11 points entering tonight’s contest. Washington, led by former Devils coach Adam Oates, is 23rd in the league with 51 goals allowed. Mike Green, the team’s top threat along the blueline, is questionable for the game with an injured groin.
Despite those issues, Washington has begun to right the ship. They’ve won three of their last four games, outscoring their opponents, 16-10. The Capitals lost its three game win streak Sunday in a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers. John Carlson scored the only Capitals goal, beating Henrik Lundqvist early in the first period. But like New Jersey, Washington failed to build on the lead. Carl Hagelin tied the game in the second period, and Derek Stepan netted the game-winning score in the third period.
New Jersey won the first game between the two teams, 3-2 in overtime, on January 25 at the Prudential Center. Gionta and Patrik Elias scored to give the Devils a two-goal lead after two periods. The Capitals responded in the third, tying the game on goals from Mike Ribeiro and Green. Ilya Kovalchuk scored the game-winner in overtime, beating Michael Neuvirth with a shot from the left circle.
Brodeur, who made 26 saves in that win, will start for New Jersey. He’s 0-3-0 with a 5.25 goals-against average in his last three starts in Washington.
The Devils will be without forward Ryan Carter for the two game trip. The forward is out with an upper-body injury after a sandwich hit from Dave Dziurzynski and Chris Neil in the second period of Monday’s loss. Rookie Stefan Matteau, a healthy scratch for the last three games, will take his place on the team’s third line.