Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals take on the New Jersey Devils on Thursday and Friday night in the District for the fifth and sixth times this season. The Capitals have won all four meetings between the two teams this season, including a 5-4 overtime victory at Capital One Arena on March 9 in the most recent contezt. Action from 7th and F Streets NW can be seen on NBC Sports Washington+ on Thursday and NBC Sports Washington on Friday with each game set to begin at 7 PM ET.
The Devils play the middle two games of a season-long six-game road trip in Washington after taking the first two: a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday and a 5-4 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. They will finish their trip with a two-game set with the Boston Bruins after leaving Washington. The Devils are 8-3-2 away from Prudential Center this season.
The Devils are 4-1-1 in their last six games and have won four of their past five after losing four straight and nine of 10 (1-7-2). Their 28 points rank seventh in the East Division and they are eight back of the Bruins, who have two games in hand on them. They started the season 4-3-2 before a two-week pause due to COVID-19 but are 8-11-2 since.
Forward Pavel Zacha leads the team with 18 points in 29 games this season but has only one assist in his last five and two points in his last eight. Forward Miles Wood’s nine goals lead the Devils but is scoreless in his last four and has just two goals in his last 11 games. Defenseman Ty Smith’s 15 assists lead the Devils in his rookie season and the 21-year-old has four in his last four games.
The Devils’ average of 2.50 goals-per-game this season rank 26th in the NHL but their average of 3.00 goals-against per game is tied with the Arizona Coyotes for 19th. The Devils’ 14% power-play efficiency is 26th and their 70.8% penalty-killing rate is last. Their average of 29.8 shots-per-game is tied with the Calgary Flames for the league average but their average of 31.7 shots-against per game is tied with the Detroit Red Wings for the fifth-most. The Devils’ 45.8% faceoff-winning percentage is only better than the New York Rangers’ 44.8%.
The Devils’ 51.91% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage is currently eighth but their 49.65% expected goals-for percentage is 17th. Their 51.08% scoring chances-for percentage is 13th and their .9245 team save percentage is ninth. The Devils’ .995 PDO is tied with the Colorado Avalanche for the ninth-worst while their 7.05% shooting percentage is the fourth-worst.
The Capitals continue a six-game homestand, tied for their longest of the season, on Thursday night after a four-day break. They started the stretch 2-1-0 but fell to the Rangers by a score of 3-1 in their last game, which ended a season-high seven-game winning streak. The Capitals are 5-1-1 in their last seven at Capital One Arena, where they are 10-4-2 this season. Four of their next seven games are against the Devils.
The Capitals are a league-best 14-3-1 (.806 points percentage) since February 15, a stretch where they have averaged 3.22 goals-per-game (seventh) and 2.28 goals-against per game (third) despite averaging just 27.6 shots-per-game (third-worst). They are also 82% efficient on the penalty kill (11th) and have allowed just 27.2 shots-per-game (sixth). The Capitals are also 12-2-0 in their past 14 games.
Center Nicklas Backstrom leads the team with 22 assists and 34 points in 31 games this season. The 33-year-old earned an assist in the Capitals’ 3-1 loss to the Rangers a game after his three-game point streak (where he recorded two goals and four points) ended. Captain Alex Ovechkin leads the Capitals with 14 goals and has recorded 25 points in 27 games. The 35-year-old saw a five-game goal-scoring streak, where he recorded six goals and seven points, end on Saturday.
The Capitals’ average of 3.35 goals-per-game this season ranks fourth in the NHL while their average of 2.90 goals-against per game is 17th. Their 25.6% power-play efficiency is tied for seventh with the Winnipeg Jets while their 81.1 penalty-killing rate is 11th. The Capitals’ average of 28 shots-per-game is 27th but their average of 29.4 shots-against per game entered Wednesday’s slate of NHL activity tied with the Philadelphia Flyers for 12th. Their 48.6% faceoff-winning percentage is tied with the Jets and Penguins for 21st.
The Capitals’ 49.39% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage is 17th but their 51.11% expected goals-for percentage is 13th. Their 50.09% scoring chances-for percentage is 14th and 7.05% shooting percentage is fourth. The Capitals’ .9213 save percentage is the league average. Their 1.029 PDO leads the NHL this season.
Devils – MacKenzie Blackwood, 24 (8-8-1, .908 save percentage, 2.91 goals-against average), and Scott Wedgewood, 28 (3-4-3, .918 save percentage, 2.59 goals-against average, two shutouts). Blackwood is 1-5-0 with an .878 save percentage and a 3.48 goals-against average in six career games against the Capitals, including 0-2-0 with an .848 save percentage and a 3.58 goals-against average this season. Wedgewood is 1-0-3 with a .903 save percentage and a 2.63 goals-against average in four career games against the Capitals, a 25-save performance in Washington’s 5-2 win at Prudential Center on February 27.
Capitals – Ilya Samsonov, 24 (6-1-1, .908 save percentage, 2.48 goals-against average), and Vitek Vanecek, 25 (13-5-3, .911 save percentage, 2.66 goals-against average, one shutout). Samsonov is 3-1-0 with a .910 save percentage and a 2.53 goals-against average in four career games against the Devils, including a 19-save performance in the Capitals’ 3-2 win over the Devils on February 28 in his first game back from COVID-19 protocol. Vanecek has gone 2-0-0 with an .891 save percentage and a 2.97 goals-against average against the Devils this season.
By Harrison Brown