The Washington Capitals are off to a strong start even without their franchise player leading the way.
The New Jersey Devils aren't doing nearly as well without theirs.
While New Jersey clearly misses Martin Brodeur, Washington does have Alexander Ovechkin on the ice but Alexander Semin has been stealing the show. He'll try to keep up his torrid pace and lift the Capitals to a fifth straight win when they open a home-and-home set with the Devils on Friday.
Semin has five goals and five assists during Washington's win streak, and had a career-high five points in a 5-1 victory over Carolina on Wednesday.
"He's on a roll right now," said linemate Nicklas Backstrom, who had a goal and three assists.
At least for one night, Semin took over the NHL scoring lead with 27 points and helped move Washington (9-4-2) into sole possession of the Southeast Division lead. The fourth-year winger had 42 points in 63 games last season, when Ovechkin led the league with 65 goals and 112 points.
"I hope he's going to play the same way - he's going to be the best player in the league," Ovechkin said of his linemate.
Ovechkin added a goal and an assist Wednesday, and he's scored in back-to-back games after going nine straight without a goal.
Semin had two goals in the Capitals' first matchup of the season with New Jersey (7-6-2) on Oct. 18, but he and Ovechkin failed to score in the shootout and the Devils won 4-3.
Brodeur stopped all three shots he faced in that shootout, but he won't be around for the final three meetings between the teams - they also play Saturday in New Jersey and on Feb. 3. The Devils have been missing the four-time Vezina Trophy winner since he tore a biceps muscle on Nov. 1, and he's expected to miss about four months.
New Jersey has allowed 15 goals in five games without Brodeur and its only win in that span came in a shootout.
"We've got to find a way to stay in the hunt," Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "We're not going to use excuses. The easiest thing to do is say it's injuries. The bottom line is, the guys who are playing have to be rock solid."
That simply hasn't happened.
Kevin Weekes was pulled after allowing four second-period goals in a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday.
Zach Parise, among the league leaders with 11 goals, has scored twice in the last three games, but his teammates have combined for only two in that span. The result has been a three-game skid, during which the Devils are 0-for-9 on the power play.
Their play on special teams continues to be among the league's worst. They have converted 12.5 percent of their chances with the man advantage, scoring an NHL-low seven power-play goals, and have allowed opponents to score on 24.2 percent of their opportunities.
"We're playing hard and doing a lot of good things, but we're making too many mistakes," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "They're killing us and we're not capitalizing on our opportunities."
Maybe that will change in Washington, where the Devils have won six of their last seven games.