The Devils have already played division foes in the Islanders and Flyers, but Friday’s game against old friend Adam Oates and his new team, the Washington Capitals, certainly deserves a special shade of highlighter on the calendar. Besides facing their former assistant coach and a very good one at that, Oates’ Caps are 0-3-0 after Thursday night.
In the Devils’ locker room Thursday afternoon, the “D” appeared to be the phrase of the day.
“I think they’ll be definitely a hard-working team and probably playing some real desperate hockey because they wanna get that win,” captain Bryce Salvador said.
When Oates arrived in D.C., he promised to revamp the Caps from the defense-or-die flag they rallied behind with Dale Hunter on the bench. Oates promised an attack-oriented team like the Caps teams we saw in Bruce Boudreau’s early years as coach — the style of play that helped Alex Ovechkin light up the league. Unfortunately for Oates, the lockout sapped whatever learning curve Ovi and co. would’ve had and the Caps have struggled to adjust through three games.
With that in mind, Mattias Tedenby admits the Devils will have to take take it up a notch, so to speak.
“I think we gotta play a little bit like we did against the Flyers but I think we got another gear as well offensively,” Tedenby said. “I think we had a solid game offensively, but I think we can do a little bit better offensively, create more and hold onto the puck a little bit more.”
Oates knows that, too. In fact, coach Pete DeBoer joked after Wednesday’s optional practice that his former assistant’s SAT scores were probably “at least a few hundred points higher” than his. DeBoer even admitted yesterday that Oates was a big part of the decision to move Ilya Kovalchuk to the right side last season — a move that seemed to Kovalchuk out of a fog and spur him to the fifth-most points in the league.
Oates is trying the same thing with Ovechkin this season, moving the league’s most dynamic player to his proper side and trying to get him to face the play more often.
“Stealing our ideas,” DeBoer joked.
And while the Devils might know a lot of Oates’ schemes, plans and tendencies, as Salvador points out, it goes both ways.
“They have a pretty good advantage because he was a big part of our team last year as far as implementing the systems and working with a lot of the individuals here,” Salvador said.
As for who the familiarity will serve best, the Devils’ captain probably had the best answer.
“Guess we’ll see after the game.”