Game Preview: Capitals Visit The Devils

The Washington Capitals will be headed on the road for the first time in just under two weeks, when they travel to Newark for the front-end of a back-to-back against the New Jersey Devils. 

 The Capitals last road game was against these same Devils. Washington scored the first three goals, but New Jersey stormed back with four unanswered goals in the second period. Then the Caps found their game again and won 6-4.

Here are the projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin – Dylan Strome – Tom Wilson
Sonny Milano – Evgeny Kuznetsov – T.J. Oshie
Nicolas Aube-Kubel – Connor McMichael – Aliaksei Protas
Beck Malenstyn – Nic Dowd – Matthew Phillips

 Martin Fehervary – John Carlson
Rasmus Sandin – Nick Jensen
Hardy Häman Aktell – Lucas Johansen

 Charlie Lindgren
Hunter Shepard
Darcy Kuemper

Anthony Mantha will not travel with the team during the back-to-back slate. He was placed on injured reserve on Friday morning with an upper-body injury. He took a puck to the side of his head against the Florida Panthers. Washington recalled Nicolas Aube-Kubel from the Hershey Bears Friday morning to likely take his spot on the third line.  Aube-Kubel has three points (one goal, two assists) in 11 games with Hershey and had 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 47 games with Washington last year. 

The Caps also recalled goaltender Hunter Shepard. Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery said after the morning skate that this was because Darcy Kuemper was a little “nicked up” after the Florida game. Charlie Lindgren will likely get his third start of the season. 

Trevor van Riemsdyk is still ailing from a lower-body injury and will not travel during the brief road swing. 

Mantha had two goals in the 4-3 overtime loss. His line consisting of Aliaksei Protas and Connor McMichael was the Caps best trio against the Panthers. Protas had two assists and McMichael scored his first career short-handed tally. 

“I think the biggest thing for us is we’re all on the same page. We’re all making the right reads we’re communicating out there,” McMichael said after the loss against Florida. “I think that just makes the game a lot easier. And I think obviously the other two guys had a great game as well.”

The Capitals penalty kill is 13-for-13 in the last six games. The short-handed unit struggled early in the season, but it seems to have found its groove during the Caps’ small upward trend. 

“Clears we’ve done a really good job [with]. The first few games I felt like when we were struggling, we were giving teams an opportunity, which they’re gonna get, a shot or delivery and it was another one and another one and another one, and that’s when you’re playing with fire,” Carbery said. “To where now we’re given them a shot or a delivery or an attack and then it’s going 200 feet… Our structure has gotten a lot better with guys reading off of each other, knowing where they need to be and then goaltending as well as been really, really strong on the penalty kill.”

The Devils have the best power play in the NHL operating at 41.7%. The PK unit will get an added boost tonight when Nic Dowd returns to the lineup tonight, so it will have to come up large once again against a high-octane Devils power play. Dowd was activated from IR this morning. 

Alex Ovechkin extended his goal drought to five games. He only had two shots on goal against the Panthers, both of which came on the power play. The Capitals captain had two points (one goal, one assist) in the first meeting between the two teams. 

“You just have to look at yourself and think like what you should do differently,” Ovechkin said. “Sometimes you kind of like, don’t wait [for] the puck [to go] there, but the puck is over there and you’re like ‘better if I take one more step or kind of be more into that.’ But I think it’s just a period of time.”

Scouting New Jersey

New Jersey (7-4-1) is coming off a 6-3 loss against the Colorado Avalanche. 

The Devils will once again be without two key pieces against the Caps. Jack Hughes is considered week-to-week with a right shoulder injury he sustained on Nov. 3 against the St. Louis Blues. Hughes had three assists in the last meeting between these two squads and is fifth in the NHL with 20 points (five goals, 15 assists) in 10 games. 

Meanwhile, captain Nico Hischier has missed the last five games due to an upper-body injury he sustained against the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 27. 

The Devils are third in the NHL at 3.83 goals per game but have struggled on the defensive side of the puck allowing 3.67 goals per game. 

Vitek Vanecek will be in between the pipes for the Devils. The ex-Capitals netminder came in relief for Akira Schmid the last time these two teams faced off, giving up the last two goals of the game. Vanecek is 6-3-0 with a 3.29 goals-against average and a .893 save percentage on the campaign.


Player To Watch

Jesper Bratt has eight points (three goals, five assists) in his last five games. Though during that span, he went three games without registering a point, his role is going to be increased with Hughes and Hischier out of the lineup. Bratt had an assist against Washington in the last meeting. 

Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m. and the game can be streamed on Monumental Sports Network.

By Jacob Cheris

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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4 Responses to Game Preview: Capitals Visit The Devils

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’d love to see 1L Milano Strome Wilson.

    • Diane Doyle says:

      I’d like to see a 1st line of anybody that can score goals! Is Milano really our best scoring option at LW? (In past years, the answer to that question would be “No”.)

  2. Perp says:

    Where is Lapierre in the projected lineup?

    • Diane Doyle says:

      The assumption with that lineup is that he would be the odd man out. Whether he’s the odd man out, we’ll see at game time.

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