Gameday: Devils at Capitals (2/21/13)

Devils-Capitals

The last time the Devils and Capitals met, Ilya Kovalchuk scored the game-winning goal in overtime.

Who:  New Jersey Devils at Washington Capitals
When: 7:00 p.m. ET; Pregame show at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Media: TV – MSG+ (Channel listings); RadioWFAN (660 AM or 101.9 FM)
Twitter: @cgriffin415 | @SNYDevils

Stats & Notes (via Devils PR)

  • This marks the first time in team history that the club will play consecutive regular-season road games in the same city. The Devils will play five of their next six games away from Prudential Center.
  • New Jersey has won the last four meetings between the two teams (last loss, November 11, 2011, 3-1 at Prudential Center).
  • The Devils have won 6 of their last 9 games overall and are 15-3-4 in their last 22 regular season contests dating back to 2011-12.
  • Patrik Elias posted 1g-1a in New Jersey’s 3-2 overtime win vs. Washington on January 25. With 20g-32a-52pts in his career he has passed Kirk Muller (20g-31a-51pts) as the franchise’s all-time scoring leader vs. the Capitals.

Expected Lineups

Forwards                                                              Defense                                                      Goalie
Ponikarovsky-Zajac-Kovalchuk                           Salvador-Zidlicky                                              Brodeur
Elias-Henrique-Clarkson                                    Greene-Larsson
Matteau-Gionta-Bernier                                        Volchenkov-Tallinder
Barch-Josefson-Butler

Inactives: Harrold, Fayne
Scratched: Carter (upper body)

On special: I wrote about it last week and new contributor Pat Pickens touched on it earlier in the week as well — the Devils’ penalty kill has become a serious issue. I mean, this is supposed to be one of the strongest units on the team, yet they rank 20th in the NHL entering play tonight. It’s also not just that the Devils are having difficult killing off penalties, it’s that they’re taking them at the wrong times — to start or end a period or late in the third with the team trailing. The Devils are struggling just to stay even strength and when you’re a team that struggles to score at times, you simply cannot continue to give the other team up to 10 minutes a night of man-advantage time. That’s a recipe for disaster and it cost the Devils dearly in Sunday’s loss to the Islanders. The Capitals are a team that’s got some awesome individual talent and if you give them extra ice to play with, eventually they’re going to make it count.

Cold Clarky: Needless to say, the Devils have been having trouble scoring goals since the home-and-home sweep of Pittsburgh. Outside of the four-goal (non-empty net variety) explosion against Philly on Friday, Devils have just four goals combined in games against the Hurricanes, Islanders and Senators. Part of the problem has been the sudden disappearance of David Clarkson on the scoresheet. Are the Devils a team that rises and falls based on Clarky’s scoring touch? No, but they are a team that has a serious need for secondary scoring on most nights. While Clarkson’s 30 goals might have been more of a luxury last season, he is one of the key cogs in New Jersey’s offensive machine. That key cog has just one goal since Feb 10 — not good. He’s still getting chances, so I’m not totally worried (yet), but it’s time for him to start burying them or else the Devils will need guys like Henrique, Elias and Zajac to start scoring on a semi-regularly basis. Come to think of it, that would be nice to see regardless of Clarkson’s output.

On the uptick: The Caps are currently in last place in the East, not exactly where we all thought they’d be to start the year. That said, they have started to turn it on of late, winning three straight before losing 2-1 to the Rangers on Sunday in a game that probably should’ve been worse if not for the stellar play of Braden Holtby. Relating back to our first preview point, during the Caps’ season-high three-game run, their power play was clicking at an unheard of 63.6 percent. Make no mistake, this will not be an easy two-game trip to D.C. The Capitals still present a nightly challenge because of their skill players and could give the Devils serious problems if New Jersey decides to turn on the penalty faucet again tonight and Saturday.