The Capitals have been playing well enough without Alex Ovechkin that he can take his time returning to the lineup.
The two-time reigning MVP has missed five games since sustaining an upper body injury against Columbus on Nov. 1. Without him, Washington has gone 4-1, and their only loss was a 3-2 defeat to the Devils at Prudential Center on Nov. 4.
"If I’m going to play tonight, I’m just going to do my best," Ovechkin said after a long morning session on Saturday. "If it’s hurt, it’s hurt. If it’s not, it’s not. If you step to the ice and play, you have to play 100 percent."
The Devils (13-4-0, 26 pts) can tie the Capitals (12-3-4, 28 pts) for the most points in the Eastern Conference tonight, when the teams square off at the Rock. Despite missing the past two weeks, Ovechkin still sits atop the Caps' scoring list with 14 goals and nine assists for 23 points.
Ovechkin had three goals and five assists in four games against New Jersey last season, but was limited to one assist in his only appearance against Martin Brodeur
. This year, he recorded two assists in his lone meeting with New Jersey on Oct. 12. The Devils rallied from a 2-0 deficit to force a shootout, and Brodeur denied Ovechkin on Washington's final shootout attempt.
"Great team, great goalie," said Ovechkin, who has 443 points (233g-210a) in 338 career games. "Everybody knows their strength: they like to play defensively. But it seems like they have great skills guys and they can be very good defensively too."