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PRE-GAME REPORT: Devils vs. Capitals

Devils play their final home game before the holiday break tonight against the Capitals

by Marc Ciampa / NewJerseyDevils.com

The Devils play their final home game before the holiday break tonight against the Washington Capitals. 

You can watch the game on MSG+ or listen on the Devils Hockey Network. 

Video: DEVILS:60 | Milestones Night when Devils Host Caps

Read the game preview below plus lineup updates, videos, our Pre-Game Report and more. 

PRE-GAME SHOW

At 1:00 PM ET today we had our Live Pre-Game Show as host Catherine Bogart took you through the storylines with interviews, analysis and more. 

>> WATCH ARCHIVE

INSIDE THE DEVILS

Reaction to the Taylor Hall trade plus more news and notes from the past few days. 

>> READ MORE IN THE INSIDE THE DEVILS BLOG

PRE-GAME REPORT

NEWARK, NJ - The Devils will be going with the exact same lineup tonight as they had in each of their last two games, not wanting to mess with a winning combination: 

Bratt - Hischier - Palmieri
Coleman - Zajac - Gusev
Zacha - Hughes - Simmonds
Boqvist - McLeod - Wood

Greene - Subban
Butcher - Vatanen
Mueller - Severson

Blackwood

Mackenzie Blackwood is the declared starter for tonight. Tomorrow, the Devils play in Columbus. Currently, Louis Domingue is on the shelf with a lower-body injury and Gilles Senn is the backup. Devils interim head coach Alain Nasreddine did not commit to a goaltender for the game tomorrow. 

"It will be Blackie today. We'll see how it goes but there hasn't been a set decision for tomorrow," Nasreddine said. 

The coach added that Blackwood was a big reason why the team was able to rally to defeat the Ducks on Wednesday. 

"Blackie made some big saves to keep it at 1-0. When they made it 1-0, I really liked our start but then we got loose. We regrouped between the first and second and I really liked our response in the second."

BIG CHALLENGE TONIGHT

It's a big test for the Devils tonight, facing the top team in the NHL in the Washington Capitals. Nasreddine said that a key for the team tonight is attention to detail, minding mistakes but also not being afraid to make a mistake. 

"You can't squeeze your stick and be afraid to make mistakes," he said. "I've mentioned that there's got to be a fine line and balance. We're always trying to find that. It was something lacking a bit last game with the turnovers that I was talking about.

"They're a team that's really good both off the rush and in the offensive zone. If we try to be loose and fancy, it's not going to be good for us."

MILESTONES FOR GREENE AND ZAJAC

Both Andy Greene and Travis Zajac are playing major milestones tonight. It's Greene's 900th career NHL game while for Zajac it's 956. The 956 number is significant because it ties Scott Stevens for fourth-highest in Devils history. 

"He's the ultimate pro. Everything he does, every day, is to be ready. He's a really good role model for our young guys. He steadies everything for our team. Anyone who plays with Greener plays well and that says a lot," said Nasreddine. 

"It's the way he handles himself off the ice. He's a pro."

Greene downplayed his milestone. 

"At the end of the day, it's another game and another number. You really don't right now. It's something when you're done playing. Would rather have less games and a Stanley Cup. Working on that."

Zajac turned the conversation about his 956th back on the team and the situation at hand. 

"Just being able to play this long and still compete and have impact on the game, I think that's the most important thing," Zajac began. "I still love being on the ice and in the heat of the moment and in different situations.

"Glad I can still come to the rink and help the team."

-- Marc Ciampa, NewJerseyDevils.com

PREVIEW

DEVILS (11-17-5) at CAPITALS (24-6-5)

TV: 7:00 p.m. ET; Televised on MSG+

Head-to-Head:

Tonight's game is the first of four meetings between the two teams this season. 

Last season, the Capitals took three out of four but New Jersey's lone win was a big one, 6-0 at Prudential Center. 

Nico Hischier led the Devils in scoring against the Capitals with three points despite only playing in two of the four games. 

Nicklas Backstrom had six points (four goals) in four games to lead the Capitals while Alex Ovechkin had four points (one goal). 

Devils team scope:

The Devils have won each of their last two games, by scores of 2-1 (Saturday at Arizona) and 3-1 (Tuesday at home against Anaheim). It is the team's first instance of back-to-back wins since November 15 and 16 (versus Pittsburgh and Montreal). 

Kyle Palmieri leads the Devils with 21 points through 33 games (13 goals, 8 assists). Nico Hischier is second on the club with six goals and 17 points in 28 contests. 

Mackenzie Blackwood has a 2.77 goals-against average and .910 save percentage. Since November 23 -- a span of nine games -- Blackwood has a 2.20 GAA and .930 save percentage. 

Capitals team scope:

The Capitals are the number one team in the entire NHL, three points clear of the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues with 53 points. On the road, they're an even more impressive 15-3-1 with 15 of their 24 total victories being away from home. 

Washington, however, has lost two of their last four games -- both to the Columbus Blue Jackets. In their last game, they dropped a 3-0 decision in Columbus this past Monday. Prior to that, they had won six straight. 

Defenseman John Carlson is tearing up the NHL with 45 points in 35 games. Carlson leads the Caps in points and also in plus/minus. He leads all NHL blueliners in points and ranks seventh in the entire NHL in points. 

By the Numbers:

In six of their last eight games, the Capitals have allowed two goals or less. They rank 10th in the NHL in GAA at 2.80 but within their own division, the Metropolitan, they're fifth. 

Washington is 15-1-3 when scoring first in a game. Although the Capitals lead the NHL and the Devils rank 30th, they have identical 3-3-1 records against the Metropolitan Division this season. The Caps have pounded the Atlantic Division and Pacific Division with a combined 18-1-4 record against those two divisions, greatly contributing to their current standing in the League. 

The last time the Devils won three straight games was December 27, 29 and 31 against Boston, Carolina and Vancouver. They have an opportunity to do so tonight. 

Injury Updates:

Devils - Matt Tennyson (upper body) is on IR; Louis Domingue (lower body) is on IR

Capitals - No injuries to report

-- Marc Ciampa, NewJerseyDevils.com

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