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Caps hope to tighten up defensively at N.J.

by Dan Rosen
CAPITALS (14-5-2) at DEVILS (5-13-2)


Last 10: Washington 7-1-2; New Jersey 3-6-1

Season series: This is the second of four meetings between the clubs. Washington beat the Devils, 7-2, in D.C. on Oct. 9.

Big Story -- The Devils are in desperate need of something good to happen, and time is of the essence now. They have lost three in a row and they've scored only three goals in the process. They've given up only 9 goals, so the defense hasn't necessarily been an issue, but they are so offensively challenged now that it has become a big issue/concern. They'll have to break out of their season-long slump without the services of Martin Brodeur, whose bruised elbow is still bothering him and he'll be out for at least a few days, if not two weeks. At least X-rays were negative.

Team Scope:

Capitals -- Washington has allowed nine goals over the last two games and has lost them both. The Caps dropped a 5-0 decision in Atlanta this past Friday and lost, 5-4, in a shootout after scoring three power-play goals in the third period to come back and force the extra time. However, the Capitals also gave up a pair of goals in the third period, so they had to take some of the good with the bad. Rookie center Marcus Johansson played what coach Bruce Boudreau called his best game of the season on Saturday in Philly. He had a goal and three shots over 13:15 of ice time.

"It feels better and better," Johansson told the Capitals web-site.

Devils -- Saturday night in St. Louis it was Mike McKenna in net, and while he played well in his NHL start this season he couldn't get any help. The Devils gave away leads of 1-0 and 2-1, and although they outshot the Blues, 37-27, they still lost the game, 3-2. New Jersey's 5-13-2 record is their worst 20-game record since they were 1-18-0 in 1983-84. They had a players-only meeting Friday after losing in Toronto a night earlier, but it didn't do the trick. They have won only one game on home ice this season, but at least it was the last game they played at Prudential Center. A win Monday would give them back-to-back home wins, or their first positive streak of any kind this season.

"We have to still battle through it," MacLean told reporters after Saturday's game. "I'm certainly not quitting or giving up. I'm going to keep battling through this and we have to fight our way out of it."

Who's Hot -- Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom has 3 goals over the last five games and 7 for the season and David Steckel has won better than 50 percent of his faceoffs in nine straight games. Devils rookie Mattias Tedenby has 3 points on 2 goals and 1 assist over his first five NHL games.

Injury Report -- The Devils will be without goalie Martin Brodeur, who is considered day-to-day with a bruised elbow. Capitals wing Mike Knuble could still be out after taking a puck to the face in Friday's loss in Atlanta. He missed Saturday's game and his status for Monday is still unknown.

Stat Pack -- Talk about differing power plays in this game. Entering Sunday, the Capitals ranked fifth in the NHL with 18 power-play goals on 76 chances (23.7 percent). They are 6-for-29 in nine road games. Meanwhile, the Devils' power play is 29th in the NHL at 10.2 percent (6 for 59). They are at least 5 for 20 in eight home games.

Puck Drop -- Capitals forward Brooks Laich, who always offers a candid, sharp look inside the team, was talking positively after the shootout loss in Philadelphia.

"This was a hockey game we wanted to win," Laich told the Washington Post. "But that said, there were a lot of positives in the way we played. It's the way we have to play, to respond the rest of the season and in the playoffs. You're seeing our team grow after (Friday) night's embarrassment (in Atlanta) and we played a good hockey game, just didn't get the result."

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