March 2 vs. New Jersey Devils at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: 104.7 FM, 1500 AM and Capitals Radio 24/7
New Jersey Devils 25-25-12
Washington Capitals 42-13-7
With the 2017 NHL trade deadline in the rear view mirror and having played five of their last six games on the road coming out of their bye week, the Capitals return to the District to start off the March portion of their schedule with a three-game homestand on Thursday against the New Jersey Devils.
The Caps are aiming for a 14th straight win at Verizon Center, which would establish a new franchise standard. The team's current 13-game home winning streak matches the record originally set during the 2009-10 season.
Video: Johansson on breaking career high in goals
Washington went 3-2-1 during the six games out of the bye week, and it comes into Thursday's game with the Devils on the heels of a strong performance in a 4-1 win over the Rangers in New York on Tuesday. The Caps started slowly against the Rangers, and they trailed New York 1-0 heading into the second. But Washington took over the game in the second, earning its first win in three games against the Rangers this season. The Caps now have at least one victory over each of the other 15 Eastern Conference teams in 2016-17.
"We played a lot better in the second and third," says Caps winger Brett Connolly, who scored the game-winner against the Rangers, establishing a single-season career best with his 13th goal of the season. "I don't think our first was that great. We maybe took a little bit to get going, but once we did [we were fine]."
For the third time in a span of five games, Washington's video coaching staff was responsible for having a goal against wiped off the board at a critical juncture of the game. Michael Grabner appeared to score to give New York a 2-1 lead midway through the second period, but the Caps' video crew urged a coach's challenge, which ultimately showed that Grabner was in ahead of the play, taking the goal off the board.
"We got a good break on that goal getting overturned," says Connolly. "I thought from there on, we were controlling the game for the most part. We had good zone time in their end, and we had some traffic and got some timely goals.
Video: Caps players talk after a 4-1 win against the Rangers
"They're a good team. We played a good game. We knew we had to play a good game to win, and we did that."
Down a goal at the start of the second period, the Caps seized control of the contest and owned a 27-15 advantage in shot attempts at even strength during the middle 20 minutes.
"They're a tough team to come into Madison Square Garden and play against," says Caps right wing Tom Wilson of the Rangers. "They come out really fast, they come out with a lot of pace. Sometimes it takes a bit of an adjustment there in the first period there to realize their type of play - their board-to-board play - and their speed. Our defense a good job of limiting their chances early, and squeezing them off. Once we tied it up and got the lead I thought we did a great job of giving them nothing."
Video: Shattenkirk after first practice in D.C.
Playing on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, Wilson had a strong game against the Rangers. He logged more ice time than any Caps forward - a single-game career high of 19:34 ("I had puddles in my skates," he quips) - and he and Ovechkin combined to lay nine of Washington's 19 hits on the night.
"We had a big first line and then a very skilled and poised second line," says Wilson, "and then a third and fourth line that play very hard as well. It seemed like when we were getting in on their [defense], it was a long night for them."
Washington got defenseman Matt Niskanen back in its lineup on Tuesday after a two-game absence, and blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk made his Caps debut after coming over in a deal with St. Louis a day earlier. The Caps were still without T.J. Oshie (upper body) and Brooks Orpik (lower body). Both Oshie and Orpik are day-to-day, and both practiced with their teammates on Wednesday.
Video: Coach Trotz after Wednesday's practice
"I would say that [Oshie] and Orpik are very close," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "Obviously, they're practicing with us. We'll really just evaluate it [Thursday]. They're close, but we're at a point where unless they're 100 percent ready to go, we're probably going to say, 'Just hold off.'"
Five years ago this spring, the Devils advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup final. This season, they're on track to miss the postseason for the fifth consecutive season. New Jersey hasn't been able to climb higher than 10th in the conference since that trip to the final half a decade ago, and the Devils dealt off a pair of veteran pieces in the hours leading up to Wednesday's NHL trade deadline.
New Jersey got defenseman Dalton Prout from Columbus in exchange for defenseman Kyle Quincey, and the Devils got a sixth-round draft choice as the return for winger P.A. Parenteau.
The Devils are dragging a four-game losing streak (0-2-2) into the District, though they have scraped points from each of their last two setbacks, both of which occurred in overtime.
Video: MacLellan talks Shattenkirk, 2017 NHL Trade Deadline
Although the Devils will be finished with the Capitals for the season after Thursday's game, they have a Metropolitan Division-heavy schedule the rest of the way. New Jersey will face Metro foes in 13 of its last 20 games this season, and the Devils are 8-6-3 against divisional foes on the season.
The Devils own the distinction of being the last team to defeat the Capitals on Verizon Center ice. New Jersey prevailed by a 2-1 count in a shootout here on Dec. 29 in their previous trip into town. The Caps downed the Devils by a 6-2 score in New Jersey two days later and Washington also earned a 5-2 win in Newark on Jan. 26.