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SKATE SHAVINGS - News and Notes from Caps' Morning Skate 1/11

Caps are home for the next three games as they seek to shake off some first-period struggles, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / washingtoncaps.com

Home Boys - The Caps open up a three-game homestand on Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils. It's the second of five straight games against Metropolitan Division opponents, and the Caps are seeking to bounce back from a 3-2 loss to the Flyers in Philly in their most recent outing on Wednesday night.

Washington is in the midst of a home heavy stretch of games, and the Caps tend to do better at home when they're here at Capital One Arena on extended homestands, rather than quick one-game stays, of which they've had many recently.

Since the start of the 2014-15 season, the Caps are 114-36-18 in home games that are part of a multi-game homestand, for a gaudy .732 points pct. In games that are just one-game stops at home, Washington is 35-18-5 over the same stretch, a .647 points pct.

On the road, the split is similar. When the Capitals are on the road for multiple games on the same trips, they are 88-45-14 (.646) and when they're just playing one game and returning home, they're a less impressive 43-26-10 (.615).

So far this season, the Caps are 10-2-4 in multi-game homestands and 3-2-0 in one-gamers. They are 11-2-1 in multi-game road trips, and they are 6-4-0 in solo journeys. The Caps have three more one-game road trips in January, and they have seven more on the season.

Video: Reirden Pregame | January 11

Start Me Up - The Caps have struggled out of the gates of late, yielding the game's first goal in seven of their last eight games and 11 of their last 14. They've done well in such circumstances; their 13-9-2 mark when giving up the game's first goal is the third best mark in the league, and their 13 wins when giving up the first goal is tops in the circuit.

But Washington's recent first-period woes run a bit deeper, as the estimable Carter Myers points out. The Caps have not taken a lead to the room in any of their last nine games, and they've been outscored 10-4 in the first frame of those games. They've scored in the first period in just two of those nine contests, posting a 5-4-0 mark in those nine games, and needing overtime to achieve two of the five victories.

Ironically, the Caps lost both of those two games in which they scored in the first period, despite scoring twice in the first in both games (Dec. 31 vs. NY Islanders and Jan. 8 at Philadelphia. The last time Washington scored in the first and won the game was the last time they faced the Devils, on Dec. 20 in New Jersey.

Washington is 13-0-2 this season when leading after 20 minutes of play.

Roster Move - Defenseman Christian Djoos practiced with the Caps on Thursday, his first day of full contact practice after he suffered an upper body injury in a Dec. 28 game against the Hurricanes in Carolina. On Saturday, the Caps announced that they have reassigned Djoos to AHL Hershey.

Djoos skated in two games with the Caps, averaging 8:56 per game in ice time and recording a plus-1. He has three goals and 18 points in 25 games with the Bears.

The move leaves the Caps with six rostered defensemen, typically one fewer than most teams carry. But the Caps are tight against the $81.5 million salary cap this season, they don't leave the Eastern Time Zone for another month, and they've got a week off from the rigors of the rink starting a week from today. Washington successfully ran with just six defensemen earlier this season, too, getting by with half a dozen defensemen from Dec. 1-27.

Video: Two-Man Advantage | January 11

In The Nets - Braden Holtby gets the net for the Caps tonight against New Jersey. He has lost four of his last five starts, earning the win last Sunday in Washington's historic late comeback win over San Jose.

Holtby has historically played well against the Devils, owning a 17-3-3 career mark against them with five shutouts - the most he has registered against any opponent - a 1.94 GAA and a .927 save pct. in 23 appearances. Since the start of the 2014-15 season, he is 15-1-2 against the Devils with four shutouts, with a 1.70 GAA and a .935 save pct.

Mackenzie Blackwood has started eight straight games for the Devils, and he has seen action in 13 of the last 14 and 18 of the last 20 New Jersey game. But not only will the Caps not see Blackwood tonight, he won't even dress.

Earlier this week, Blackwood was ailing with illness. But he played through it, only to take a hard shot to the bucket late in the second period of Tuesday's game against the New York Islanders. Despite losing some teeth in the incident, Blackwood played through that as well, and he started - but did not finish - Thursday's game against the Rangers in New York.

Saturday's game in Washington is the front end of a set of back-to-backs for the Devils, who must return home to host the white-hot Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday. But Blackwood was ailing some in the wake of Thursday's game, and he and forward Ben Street were placed on injured reserve this morning, both with upper body injuries.

That means Louie Domingue gets the start against Washington tonight, and Evan Cormier will serve as the backup. Domingue started the season in the Tampa Bay organization before being dealt to the Devils for a conditional pick on Nov. 1. The 27-year-old was 21-5-0 as a backup with the Lightning last season, but was pushed aside in Tampa Bay when the Bolts inked veteran Curtis McElhinney over the summer.

Domingue is 1-1-0 lifetime against Washington. He made two starts against the Caps while with Arizona, winning the second of those when he stopped 45 of 48 shots in a 6-3 win over Washington in Glendale on March 31, 2017.

All Lined Up - Here is a look at how we expect the Capitals and the Devils to lineup on Saturday night in the District when they meet for the second of four times this season, and the first of two on the current homestand:

 

WASHINGTON

Forwards

8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 43-Wilson

13-Vrana, 92-Kuznetsov, 77-Oshie

62-Hagelin, 20-Eller, 14-Panik

28-Leipsic, 26-Dowd, 21-Hathaway

Defensemen

6-Kempny, 74-Carlson

9-Orlov, 3-Jensen

34-Siegenthaler, 33-Gudas

Goaltenders

70-Holtby

30-Samsonov

Injuries

None

Scratches

72-Boyd

 

NEW JERSEY

Forwards

63-Bratt, 13-Hischier, 21-Palmieri

20-Coleman, 19-Zajac, 97-Gusev

44-Wood, 37-Zacha, 17-Simmonds

90-Boqvist, 16-Rooney, 40-Hayden

Defensemen

6-Greene, 76-Subban

28-Severson, 45-Vatanen

8-Butcher, 5-Carrick

Goaltenders

70-Domingue

50-Cormier

Injuries

29-Blackwood (upper body)

36-Street (upper body)

86-Hughes (upper body)

Scratches

25-Mueller

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