Photo: Paul Bereswill via Getty Images
After a disappointing 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday, the Washington Capitals begin a three-game homestand on Friday hosting the New Jersey Devils. Puck drop at Capital One Arena is set for just after 7:00 P.M. ET on NBC Sports Washington.
On December 20, the Devils fell to the Capitals by a score of 6-3 at Prudential Center. Saturday’s game will be the second of four meetings this season between the divisional teams. New Jersey lost 6-3 to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday and dropped to 15-21-7. The Devils sit last in the Metropolitan Division and 30th overall with 37 points. On the road, the team has gone 9-12-0.
Forward Kyle Palmieri leads the Devils with 30 points and 16 goals. Forward Nikita Gusev has recorded 18 assists. Captain Andy Greene has yet to score his first goal of the season but has picked up five assists in 39 games played.
Center Jack Hughes (upper-body) and forward Jesper Bratt (undisclosed) were both out for their tilt against the Rangers. It is unlikely they will play against the Capitals on Saturday.
After allowing five goals in Thursday’s game, goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood was pulled towards the end of the second period. He faced 25 shots in 35 minutes on the ice. Blackwood has gone 14-12-6 this season with goals-against average of 2.97, a .905 save percentage, and one shutout. Netminder Louis Domingue replaced Blackwood and allowed one goal and made 11 saves. In five games started, Domingue has a record of 1-4-0, a .867 save percentage, and 3.99 goals-against average.
New Jersey ranks 30th on the power play with an efficiency of 14.8%. They have a 79.9% penalty kill efficiency, which places 19th in the NHL. Palmieri has scored 8 eight power-play goals. Forward Wayne Simmonds leads with 54 penalty minutes.
Washington continues to lead the Metropolitan Division and the NHL at 30-10-5 and 65 points. They are only two points ahead of the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues. At home, the Capitals have gone 13-4-4.
Defenseman John Carlson leads all defensemen in the NHL this season with 54 points, which is eight more points than Nashville’s Roman Josi. Carlson has picked up four points in his last five games and remains the leader in assists (41). Captain Alex Ovechkin leads with 26 goals.
Although he did not participate in line rushes, defenseman Christian Djoos returned to the ice in a normal contact jersey for Friday’s practice and ran regular drills. We could possibly see Djoos back in the lineup for tomorrow’s tilt against the Devils. He has missed the last five games due to an upper-body injury.
Goaltender Braden Holtby is likely to be in net on Saturday. After facing 27 shots and allowing three goals in the loss to the Flyers, Holtby’s record this season dropped to 18-8-4. He has a save percentage of .901 and 2.99 goals-against average.
The Capitals’ 21% power play efficiency places them 12th in the league. They round out the Top 3 on the penalty kill with an efficiency of 83.7%. Ovechkin leads with nine power-play goals. Forward Tom Wilson has picked up 65 penalty minutes.
During Friday’s practice, changes were made to the power-play units. Forward Jakub Vrana drew into the first unit, replacing center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who will go down to the second unit.
Vrana, center Nicklas Backstrom, forward T.J. Oshie, forward Brendan Leipsic, and defenseman Dmitry Orlov will skate as the first unit. Kuznetsov, along with Carlson and Ovechkin, was switched to the second unit and skated with Wilson and center Lars Eller. Changes were needed after the team went 0-for-5 on power plays in Wednesday’s game.
By Della Young
Four years ago today… The Great 8 hit goal No. 5️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ pic.twitter.com/fXD4lWG8HK
— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) January 10, 2020
Our team is definitely into the “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Caps” mode. We have no idea what we’re getting. Will it be the fast, solid, resolute Caps of the 6-1 victory type, or the spasmodic, timid, choke Caps of the 3-2 defeat variety?
Hall of Fame Head Coach T. Reirden has mixed up the Power Play teams. Braden Hole-by looks to get rewarded again for losing. He’s lost a bunch lately! But Hall of Fame Head Coach T. Reirden keeps throwing him out there, benching his first-year goalie who is 12-2-1. This irks me. (“Irk” is a favorite verb that my millennial nieces and nephews love to overuse).
OK, here’s a question for all over-50 NovaCapsFans fans: True or False: Scotty Bowman, Mike Keenan, Pat Quinn, Joel Quenneville, Glen Sather, Barry Trotz, Al Arbor, Peter Laviolette, Darryl Sutter, Terry Murray, Barry Trotz and Craig Berube would all “stick with” their “starting goaltender” Braden Holtby despite his inferior performance most of the season, because it’s always better to suppress the rookie goaltender, who might be unreliable. T or F?
And Sidney Crosby inches ever closer to returning to the Penguins lineup, recovering from “core” surgery in November. Pens are tremendously solid this season, and with Crosby back, even more so. The Washington Capitals better get their ___ back into one sock, and quickly, because PIT will crush the current Caps in any playoff series.
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