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Capitals try to put win streak together vs. Devils

by Brian Hunter /
DEVILS (9-21-2) at CAPITALS (19-12-4)


Last 10:
New Jersey 2-8-0; Washington 2-6-2

Season series: Third of four meetings this season. Each team has won on home ice in a rout. Alex Ovechkin scored twice, once on a penalty shot, in Washington's 7-2 victory on Oct. 9, while Johan Hedberg stopped all 30 shots he faced for his 15th career shutout and Jason Arnott had a pair of goals in a 5-0 triumph by New Jersey on Nov. 22.

Big story:
Neither team has had an easy go of it lately, but for the Capitals it's been an unexpected blip on the radar while for the Devils it's only a continuation of their season-long struggles. Will this game be competitive on both sides, unlike the first two? National-television audiences across the U.S. and Canada will get a chance to find out.

Team Scope:

Devils: Saturday nights have seen New Jersey lose some of its most lopsided games of the season. It started out with the blowout in Washington the opening weekend, continued with a 6-1 spanking at home by Buffalo a couple weeks later, and then the Devils may have reached their lowest point when they were lambasted 7-1 in Atlanta this past Saturday, with Thrashers fourth-liner Eric Boulton recording the hat trick and Martin Brodeur having to be pulled. Ilya Kovalchuk's power-play goal against his former team was their lone highlight.

"Everything went wrong," Kovalchuk said. "I don't know what. It's unacceptable. It's embarrassing."

It started out looking like more of the same for Washington on Sunday night in Ottawa. Mired in an 0-6-2 skid and with just 11 goals to their credit over that span, the Capitals quickly fell into a 2-0 hole after the first period. But Mathieu Perreault, recalled recently from Hershey of the AHL, scored in the opening minute of the second and it sparked the team. Eric Fehr quickly added the tying goal and Perreault added a power-play tally for a critical 3-2 win.

"We felt like we won a championship," said Perreault, who has a pair of two-goal efforts in six games since coming up. "We needed that win so much for our confidence and just for the team. That was a huge win for us."

Who's hot:
Kovalchuk has 3 goals and 4 assists during a five-game points streak and the Devils' power play has connected at least once in seven straight games.

Injury report: New Jersey has forwards Zach Parise (knee) and Jacob Josefson (hand) and defensemen Bryce Salvador (concussion), Mark Fraser (hand) and Matt Taormina (ankle) on injured reserve.

Fehr left the team following Washington's game Sunday to go home to Manitoba for the funeral of his grandmother and is expected to be out the lineup. Forward Alexander Semin is skating, but remains day-to-day as he recovers from the flu and a lower-body injury. Defenseman Jeff Schultz (hand) and forwards Boyd Gordon (lower body), Tyler Sloan (groin) and DJ King (undisclosed) are on injured reserve.

Stat pack:
Specialty teams hasn't been the Devils' undoing of late -- in addition to the power play's resurgence, the penalty killing ranks eighth in the NHL this season with an 83.9-percent success rate. … Fehr, who not only scored but set up Perreault's game-winner for the Capitals against the Senators, saw 16:56 of ice time, his most in a game since Nov. 28, 2009, when he totaled 17:13 against the Canadiens.

Puck drop:
Michal Neuvirth started out hot in net for Washington, winning rookie of the month honors in October and leading the League in wins at one point in November. He's had to share starts with Semyon Varlamov since the latter got healthy, but Neuvirth started back-to-back games over the weekend and didn't allow a goal after the first period in either contest.

"It's kind of tough going back and forth," Neuvirth said. "Even [Saturday] night, I was feeling good. It's all about confidence. I was trying to find it and hopefully I found it tonight. I think after we scored the third goal and I made a couple good saves, I started feeling like myself."

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