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Devils go for third straight win vs. Capitals

by Mike G. Morreale

DEVILS (24-21-13) at CAPITALS (26-23-9)


Last 10: New Jersey 4-3-3; Washington 4-5-1

Season series: This is third of four games between the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals. The Devils won the previous two, 2-1 at Prudential Center on Jan. 24 and 5-4 at Verizon Center on Dec. 21 when Andy Greene scored 43 seconds into overtime. The final regular-season game is April 4 in New Jersey.

Big story: Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin scored his League-leading 40th goal Thursday in a 4-2 victory against the Winnipeg Jets to become the first player to reach 40 this season. He has reached the 40-goal mark six times over his nine-year NHL career, and is the first player in Capitals history to have six seasons with 40 or more goals. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals (40), power-play goals (15) and shots (294), and ranks second in game-winners (seven).

"It's good number [40]. I'm pretty sure it's not my last goal, so I don't want to stop," Ovechkin told The Washington Post. "I just want to keep going."

Team Scope:

Devils: Rookie defenseman Jon Merrill scored his first NHL goal with 2:26 remaining in overtime to give New Jersey a 2-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday. New Jersey has played in four consecutive games decided in overtime for the first time in franchise history; they beat the Dallas Stars before losing to the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche prior to beating the Oilers. Goalie Cory Schneider made 19 saves in the victory and will start his sixth straight game.

Merrill was all smiles when asked about the game-winner.

"You always dream about that kind of stuff when you're a little kid but I think after 20 games that had gone by," Merrill said. "When I hadn't scored, those dreams kind of went away a little bit. To get that first one feels really good. It's a huge win for the team and that's most important."

Capitals: Julien Brouillette became the 13th defenseman to play for the team this season when he was recalled from the team's American Hockey League affiliate on Thursday and took part in the victory against the Jets. Brouillette was paired with rookie Patrick Wey, who was playing his second NHL game. They replaced John Erskine and Mike Green in the lineup. Coach Adam Oates told reporters that Erskine is still feeling the effects of offseason knee surgery. Green (concussion) is practicing again, but has missed four straight games and remains questionable.

Braden Holtby stopped 34 shots to earn his 16th win of the season. The Capitals have won two of their past three games.

"We've put ourselves in a position where each game keeps getting bigger and bigger," Holtby said. "How we're going to be successful is if we dumb it down and we just focus on the little things that we need to do to win games, like crashing the net and getting those dirty goals. That's what we have to do consistently in order to win games."

Who's hot: Jaromir Jagr had an assist on Friday to boost his career assist total to 1,039, one behind Marcel Dionne for ninth on the all-time list. … Joel Ward has four goals and five points in the past five games for the Capitals.

Injury report: Devils defensemen Anton Volchenkov (lower body) is questionable. … Capitals center Mikhail Grabovski (ankle) is doubtful. Green (concussion) and Erskine (knee) are questionable, and defenseman Jack Hillen (right tibia surgery) is out.

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