Gameday: Capitals at Devils (1/25/13)

Adam Oates

Adam Oates returns to New Jersey for the first time.

Who: Washington Capitals at New Jersey Devils
When: 7:00 p.m. ET; Pregame show at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
Media: TV – MSG (Channel listings); RadioBloomberg (1130AM)
Twitter: @cgriffin415 | @SNYDevils

Stats & Notes (via Devils PR)

  • The Devils will face former Assistant Coach Adam Oates for the first time as Head Coach of the Washington Capitals.
  • New Jersey is looking to begin the season 3-0 for the first time since its Stanley Cup-winning 2002-03 campaign.
  • Patrik Elias (19g-31a-50pts) needs just one point to tie Kirk Muller (20g-31a-51pts) as New Jersey’s all-time leading scorer vs. Washington.

Expected Lineups

Forwards                                                                Defense                                                 Goalie
Tedenby-Zajac-Kovalchuk                                Salvador-Zidlicky                                           Brodeur
Zubrus-Elias-Clarkson                                     Tallinder-Volchenkov
Carter-Gionta-Bernier                                      Greene-Fayne
Matteau-Josefson-Barch

Inactives: Harrold, Janssen, Larsson

Familiarity breeds respect: Normally, as the saying goes, the more you know someone, the less you respect them. However, you’d be hard pressed to find a player in the Devils locker room or a coach on New Jersey’s staff that doesn’t rave about former coach Adam Oates while also preaching caution and slight fear about what Oates’ winless Caps team is capable of doing. Bryce Salvador, for one, was quick to point out that the advantage may actually rest with Oates, since the Devils are basically the same team he left this past summer. The Caps under Oates, however, while possibly using some of the same principles as the Devils used last year, have a different talent structure and team concept than the Devils. I’ll be interested to see how Oates tries to use guys like Ovechkin and Backstrom to take advantage of what he perceives to be the Devils’ weaknesses. That’s assuming, of course…

Motivation: Are the winless Capitals motivated? They basically no-showed last night at home against Montreal and Troy Brouwer called their effort “pathetic” after the game. Oates has been forced to temporarily abandon the Ovi-to-RW move in favor of just trying to get his star player on the score sheet. Obviously, some of the issues reside in the lack of a training camp and almost no teaching time for Washington’s new coaching staff. Going into this season, the new coaching staffs were pretty much guaranteed to have it the worst early on, particularly a team that was going to make as drastic a change as the Caps made going from Dale Hunter’s defensive scheme to Oates’ attack offense. All that said, I find it hard to believe that the Capitals suddenly lost the will to play hard in the lockout. The Caps excelled under Hunter’s coaching and it takes real effort to make his system work with the players the Caps were icing on a nightly basis. Oates is too good of a coach for that to all disappear in a few months. Washington will figure it out — right?

The “D” word: Desperation was the word of the week in Newark. The Caps need to win tonight and this team knows it. They’re prepared for it, just like they kind of, sort of were against the Flyers on Tuesday. Except, if not for a few bounces and more fantastic work by Martin Brodeur, that game Tuesday could have gone very differently. The Devils were dominated (another, very important D word tonight) for long stretches Tuesday, as they were at times in the season opener as well. Eventually, sloppy hockey and an inconsistent forecheck will lead to chances the other way and this is a Caps team that could be ready to burst at the seams. The Devils don’t want to be the team that gets buried.

No pressure, kid: Mattias Tedenby is getting his shot on the top line, at least to start. He’ll bring oodles of speed to that line — much more than Dainius Zubrus ever did — but he’ll also bring a penchant for brain-fart decision making. With Adam Henrique on the mend and four of the top six forward spots sewn up, that leaves one spot for either Zubrus or Tedenby returns. Knowing the way Pete DeBoer values smart two-way play (aka “playing the right way”), Zubrus has a big enough lead that Tedenby will have to put together some very solid games to steal that seat. He is capable of some very intriguing offensive play and it’s tantalizing to think of what he could do next to Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk on a regular basis. Now he just has to prove he deserves the chance.