Photo: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
After some days off, the Washington Capitals are back to work with a set of back-to-back games starting with the New Jersey Devils on Friday. Action from Prudential Center begins at 7:00 P.M. on NBC Sports Washington.
The Capitals won three out of four games last season against the Devils, which included a 4-1 victory at Prudential Center on March 19.
After falling 3-0 to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday at Nationwide Arena, the team continues to lead the Metropolitan Division and the NHL at 24-6-5 and 53 points. The Capitals and the St. Louis Blues are the only teams so far to reach the 50 point plateau. On the road, the Capitals have gone 15-3-1. Washington has a 111-75-13-15 against New Jersey.
Defenseman John Carlson has picked up 45 points (12 goals) in 35 games played. Captain Alex Ovechkin leads the Capitals with 21 goals. He has not scored in his last three games. In addition to Carlson and Ovechkin, the Capitals have four other players who have scored ten or more goals this season: forwards Jakub Vrana (15), T.J. Oshie (14), Tom Wilson (12), and Evgeny Kuznetsov (12).
Center Nic Dowd will return to the lineup and center the fourth line after sitting out for Monday’s loss. Ovechkin and center Nicklas Backstrom will be playing their 900th NHL game together on Friday.
Goaltender Ilya Samsonov is set to make his first career start against the Devils. He has not started since the 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on December 14. The 22-year old has gone 8-2-1 in 11 games played. Samsonov posts a Save Percentage of .918 and 2.38 Goals-Against Average.
The Capitals have a 22.6% efficiency on the power play. With an 85.3% efficiency, Washington has the fourth-best penalty kill in the league. Just like his number, Ovechkin has scored eight power play goals this season. Wilson and forward Garnet Hathaway lead the Capitals with 47 penalty minutes each.
New Jersey was known as a “winner” during the offseason after acquiring defenseman P.K. Subban from the Nashville Predators, forward Wayne Simmonds during free agency, and selecting first round, first pick center Jack Hughes, in the 2019 NHL Draft. Unfortunately, the momentum wasn’t quite carried over in the new season.
After firing Head Coach John Hynes on December 3, the team traded forward Taylor Hall on December 16 to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for a first-round pick in 2020, a conditional third-round pick in 2021, and prospects Kevin Bahl, Nick Merkley, and Nate Schnarr.
Sitting eighth in the Metropolitan Division and 30th overall, the Devils have gone 11-17-5 and have picked up 27 points in 33 games played. They are on a two-game winning streak after defeating the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 at home on Wednesday. At Prudential Center, the team has a 5-7-5 record. The Devils have a 90-107-13-4 history versus the Capitals.
Goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood made 26 saves and allowed one goal in Wednesday’s win. The 23-year old has gone 10-9-4 in 25 games played. He posts a Save Percentage of .910 Save Percentage, 2.77 Goals-Against Average, and one shutout so far this season.
Goaltender Louis Domingue has lost four straight games that he has started, dropping his record to 1-4-0. He has not started since December 13 when the Devils fell 3-1 to the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center. Domingue has a Save Percentage of .862 and Goals-Against Average of 4.15.
New Jersey has the third-worst power play in the league with an efficiency of 13.2%. On the penalty kill, the team is a bit better; the Devils have a 78.3% efficiency, ranking them 21st overall. Palmieri leads with 6 power play goals. He scored one during the win over Anaheim. Subban has picked up 40 penalty minutes this season and twelve in his last five games.
By Della Young
— Washington ☃️ Capitals (@Capitals) December 19, 2019