WASHINGTON, DC - Several new faces will join the lineup as the Devils face the Washington Capitals Saturday night. Jesper Bratt will make his return after missing several games due to an injury.
"It's always tough being out, watching the team play, so it's going to be a lot of fun being out there again and I feel ready to go."
Bratt blocked a shot in the January 2nd game against the Islanders and just started practicing again this week.
"Yesterday I feel like I had a big progress on the ice," said Bratt. "From maybe two days ago to yesterday it was a big step for me when I felt that I could play at a way higher pace."
"He was playing well before getting hurt, and compliment that line with [Hischier] and [Palmieri] is a big part of our team" said Interim Head Coach Alain Nasreddine about Bratt's impact on this team. "He's a quick guy, very elusive, he can make plays. When he moves his feet he's very tough to contain."
Connor Carrick will come into the lineup as well, facing his former team.
"I was excited when I walked in this morning, playing against the club that dropped me it's an important game for our team for sure."
"He put in a lot of work, he's ready, he deserves a game" said Nasreddine about Carrick. "With the results lately, I'm just trying to get him in."
Saturday morning, the Devils announced that Mackenzie Blackwood is out with an upper body injury. The team called up Evan Cormier from Binghamton. Nasreddine does not think Blackwood will be out long.
"We don't have a concern that he'll be long-term, so it's just precautionary and he's getting evaluated," said Nasreddine.
The team zoned in on their defense during morning skate, especially with limiting scoring chances.
"It's three games now, we've given up a lot of goals and it's not just goals but scoring chances," said Nasreddine. "You have to limit those chances as much as possible. So yes, that was the focus on video this morning. Especially with the team that we're facing tonight."
Tonight's game is the second of four meetings between the two teams this season.
Washington defeated the Devils 6-3 at Prudential Center back on December 20 in their only other meeting.
Nikita Gusev picked up two assists in that game while Kyle Palmieri, Miles Wood and Blake Coleman were the Devils goal scorers.
Nicklas Backstrom had two goals and four points to lead the way for Washington. John Carlson and Alex Ovechkin each had a goal and an assist while Tom Wilson had a pair of helpers.
Devils team scope:
The Devils have gone winless in their last three games (0-2-1), following a stretch where they had picked up a point in five straight (4-0-1). They look to get back on track but have a tough test tonight against the best team in the NHL followed by the hottest team in the NHL on Sunday, Tampa Bay.
Going back to December 18 (11 games), Nikita Gusev leads the Devils in scoring with 11 points. Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri have 10 points apiece while defensemen Sami Vatanen and Damon Severson have nine and eight points respectively.
Capitals team scope:
The Capitals are coming off a loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday and overall are only 3-3-0 in their last six games and 8-6-0 in their last 14 which is a bit of a slide for a club that prior to that had only lost four out of 31 all season long (22-4-5).
John Carlson, a New Jersey native, has been outstanding this season. He has 54 points in 45 games to lead all NHL blueliners and rank 10th in points among all NHL skaters. He also leads all Capitals with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Kuznetsov both sitting at 42 points.
By the Numbers:
Washington is six points ahead of their pace of each of the last two seasons. They completed those seasons with 104 and 105 points respectively.
The Capitals have seven players with at least 10 goals (Ovechkin: 26; Vrana: 19; Oshie: 18; Kuznetsov: 16; Carlson and Wilson: 13; Eller: 11). That ties them with four other NHL teams for tops in the NHL.
Braden Holtby is expected to start against the Devils tonight. He is 17-3-3 all-time against New Jersey with a 1.94 goals against average and a .927 save percentage, his second-lowest goals against average he has against any opponent (Montreal: 1.67) and his sixth-highest save percentage.
Devils -Jack Hughes (upper body) is out; Jesper Bratt (lower body) is out
Capitals - Christian Djoos (upper body) is day-to-day