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At the Rink: Devils at Capitals

by Katie Brown

ARLINGTON, Va. -- After almost a week off, the Washington Capitals are prepared to face the New Jersey Devils Thursday at Verizon Center (7 p.m. ET; MSG+ 2, CSN-DC).

The long layoff provided a rare late-season opportunity for the Capitals to recharge and work on fundamentals in preparation for a run to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Washington last played March 21 in Winnipeg, a 3-0 loss.

"Details [were] kind of the big thing this week," Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "Details in certain parts of our game. We did a lot of drills with people around the net, trying to create offense. We got shut out the last game we played, and in that game we did a lot of good things and we did go around the net, but just a little emphasis there. And defensive zone coverage we worked on a couple days ago."

Washington goaltender Braden Holtby will make his 65th start this season. Coach Barry Trotz said Holtby will get a break after the team clinches a playoff spot.

"Once you see the star [in the standings denoting a playoff berth], all bets are off," Trotz said. "He's got a good work ethic base. He likes work. And I think he likes the time in the net."

Said Niskanen: "We're real confident in [Holtby]. He's been rock-solid for us for the whole year, really. He's had a few stretches where he's dominant and he's a real competitive guy.

"He never complains, so if he has to have a heavy workload down the stretch, if that's what it takes, we know he's going to be there competing every night. He's going to be really good for us. That should give us a lot of confidence."

Of Washington's final nine regular-season games, two are against teams out of the playoffs -- New Jersey on Thursday and the Carolina Hurricanes on March 31. But Holtby said no one is focusing on that aspect of the stretch.

"We believe if we play well enough, the playoffs will be there and we'll be ready for them," Holtby said. "We feel we've done a lot of good things this year in order to become a playoff team and the standings are what they are. If we play our game these last nine and focus on every one individually, we'll be where we'll be."

Here are the projected lineups:


Adam Henrique - Patrik Elias - Stephen Gionta

Reid Boucher - Scott Gomez - Steve Bernier

Mike Cammalleri - Travis Zajac - Jordin Tootoo

Tuomo Ruutu - Jacob Josefson - Dainius Zubrus

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

Jon Merrill - Damon Severson

Mark Fraser - Eric Gelinas

Cory Schneider

Keith Kinkaid

Scratched: Martin Havlat, Michael Ryder, Stefan Matteau, Peter Harrold

Injured: Bryce Salvador (back), Ryane Clowe (concussion)


Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Marcus Johansson

Curtis Glencross - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Michael Latta - Joel Ward

Brooks Laich - Eric Fehr - Tom Wilson

Brooks Orpik - John Carlson

Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner

Tim Gleason - Mike Green

Braden Holtby

Justin Peters

Scratched: None

Injured: Jay Beagle (upper body), John Erskine (neck surgery)

Status report: The Devils held an optional skate. … Beagle is unlikely to play Saturday against the Nashville Predators or Sunday against the New York Rangers, but Trotz said he could start skating with the team next week. … Erskine skated this week for the first time since having neck surgery in October.

Who's hot: Henrique has four goals and three assists in his past eight games. … Larsson has 17 points in his past 33 games; he had two points in his first 21. … Ovechkin has 11 points in his past nine games. … Backstrom has eight assists in his past 10 games.

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