WASHINGTON -- Through three games the New Jersey Devils are among the highest-scoring teams in the NHL at 4.33 goals per game.
Although the sample size is small, it is unfamiliar territory for the traditionally stingy Devils, who have finished 27th or lower in that category in three of the past four seasons.
Even after 6-4 and 5-1 victories against the Philadelphia Flyers and Florida Panthers, respectively, New Jersey feels more comfortable playing tight games.
"I don't think we need to get into run-and-gun and open up our game," forward Dainius Zubrus said. "I think the games we did score, we still played our way, our game. I don't think we're the '80s [Edmonton Oilers]. I don't think we're that. And I don't think we should be that."
New Jersey's most recent victory, a 2-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, was more characteristic. Goaltender Cory Schneider withstood an early Lightning barrage before the Devils settled in and ground out their third straight victory to open the season.
The Devils neutralized a Lightning offense that scored seven goals in its previous game against the Montreal Canadiens. They will face a similar situation Thursday against the Washington Capitals, who have scored nine goals in their past two games.
"Run-and-gun isn't something that we're looking for," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "For us, Tampa was coming off a 7-1 win against Montreal and we found a way to get them into our game after the first 10 minutes and played it tight to the vest. I think we're looking for the same type of game [Thursday]."
New Jersey has outscored opponents 5-0 in the first period so far this season, something Washington must be cognizant of after falling behind 3-0 against the San Jose Sharks within the first 10 minutes of their 6-5 shootout loss Tuesday.
"They don’t beat themselves," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said of the Devils. "You have to fully understand that you can't get loose in your game, especially through the neutral zone. If you're loose there they're going to get you. But if you have a good game plan and you stick to it and don’t break from it, you can have some success against them."
Here are the projected lineups:
Mike Cammalleri - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr
Martin Havlat - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Ryane Clowe - Adam Henrique - Michael Ryder
Tuomo Ruutu - Stephen Gionta - Jordin Tootoo
Andy Greene - Damon Severson
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Eric Gelinas - Jon Merrill
Scratched: Damien Brunner, Jacob Josefson, Adam Larsson
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer
Marcus Johansson - Andre Burakovsky - Brooks Laich
Jason Chimera - Eric Fehr - Joel Ward
Liam O'Brien - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Chris Brown
Brooks Orpik - John Carlson
Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen
Nate Schmidt - Mike Green
Scratched: Michael Latta, Jack Hillen, John Erskine
Injured: Tom Wilson (fractured left fibula), Jay Beagle (upper body), Aaron Volpatti (upper body), Dmitry Orlov (wrist)
Status report: Trotz has rearranged his top three forward lines, shuffling Brouwer, Laich and Fehr throughout the lineup. On the first line Brouwer replaces Fehr, who returns to the third-line center position he played last season. Laich, previously the third-line center, will assume Brouwer's position on the second line. "You could change [the lines] every game, but if you understand how you need to play and what you're relying on, positionally it doesn't change a whole lot," Trotz said after practice Wednesday. … Brown, who sat out Washington's past two games as a healthy scratch, will return to the lineup, replacing Latta.
Who's hot: Cammalleri, who signed with New Jersey on July 1, leads the Devils with four goals. He's the second player in franchise history to score goals in each of his first three games with the team, joining forward Doug Gilmour, according to Elias Sports Bureau. … Ovechkin has four goals in his past two games, two at even strength and two on the power play. … Green has two goals in his first two games of the season after dealing with a 24-game season-opening drought last season, the longest of his career.