NEWARK, NJ - The Devils are hosting the Washington Capitals on Saturday afternoon and one of the key storylines is: don't let Alex Ovechkin get to 700.
The Russian superstar is currently sitting at 699 NHL goals and no team around the league wants to be a footnote in the history books or the answer to some hockey trivia question.
"That's the game plan every time we play them," said Devils veteran forward Travis Zajac. "It doesn't change much for us. He's had a heck of a career. The guy just finds ways to score goals. We have to make sure we're sharp when we're on the ice against him."
"You don't get 699 goals being one dimensional," said Kyle Palmieri. "His shot is his most lethal weapon but you've just got to do your best to take away his time and space."
"Anytime you play them, he's a guy you have to keep an eye on," said Interim Head Coach Alain Nasreddine. "He wants to get 700 and we don't want it to happen against us.
"It's not the first time we've played against Ovi. Their offense, they spread the zone well. The one game we did really well and the other they really exposed us."
As trades and injuries continue to reshape the Devils roster, more and more players are getting recalled from the American Hockey League. As of late, those call-ups have made impactful plays. Nick Merkley and Joey Anderson are probably the best example of it.
"It's extremely important," said Nasreddine. "You know what you're getting from those guys most of the time. They're on adrenaline, they want to do well, you don't have to worry about their effort, and that's what I like. You get those young guys who have something to prove and that's our reality right now. There will be more to come and guys are going to get opportunities.
"The guys who have come up have done really well. That's a great job by the coaching staff in Binghamton getting those guys ready and playing the right way. All those guys who have come up have made a positive impact. It's been great for us. It brings energy."
Merkley has a goal and an assist in three games. Anderson has two goals and two assists in nine games.
The Devils were again without defensemen Sami Vatanen and Will Butcher, who are both dealing with separate injuries.
The line rushes and defensive pairings on Friday were the same as the previous game:
Saturday's game is the fourth and final meeting between the two teams this season.
Washington has won two of the meetings and New Jersey has won once.
Nico Hischier leads the way for the Devils with two goals and four points in the three games.
For Washington, Nicklas Backstrom has seven points (two goals) in three games. Alex Ovechkin has four goals in three games to lead in that category.
Devils team scope:
The Devils have rotated wins and losses over their last seven games (4-3-0) and have picked up points in nine of their last 12 games (6-3-3).
Capitals team scope:
The Capitals have struggled as of late. In their last 10 games, they have a record of 3-6-1. The six regulation losses is a huge number considering they only have 17 losses all season. However, they are still seven points ahead of their pace from last season when they finished with 104 points. The Caps also have only one win in their last six (1-4-1).
Alex Ovechkin has been on a mission to get his 700th career NHL goal. On Thursday night against Montreal, he notched 699 which leaves him only one goal away from the target. Ovechkin leads the Caps with 41 goals.
Defenseman John Carlson is tops on the team in points with 70 (15 goals). He leads all NHL blueliners in points with Roman Josi in second, 13 points behind him.
By the Numbers:
Washington is 21-3-4 when scoring first and 16-0-2 this season when leading after one period. When leading after two, they're 24-2-3.
The Caps are 14th in the NHL on the power play at 20.6% but on the road that improves to 23.0% which ranks 5th in the NHL. The Devils penalty kill has improved from 31st and last in the NHL earlier this season to now 13th at 81.4%. On home ice, it's even greater at 83.7%.
Devils - Sami Vatanen (lower body) is on IR; Will Butcher (undisclosed) is day-to-day; Nick Merkley (upper body) is day-to-day
Capitals - The Capitals have no injuries to report