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Devils set to begin rare road-and-road in Washington

by Dave Lozo

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils are entering into a unique situation starting Thursday, playing consecutive regular-season games on the road against the same team.

Outside of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, players can't recall a similar situation since their days of playing junior hockey, but that's what they'll do against the Washington Capitals on Thursday night and Saturday afternoon at Verizon Center.

"It is a little different," said Devils forward David Clarkson, who will be in the lineup Thursday after dealing with tightness in his back following Monday afternoon's 2-1 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators. "But I think with the schedule a lot of things are going to happen that you're not used to, so I think it'll be nice to get there and play tomorrow, have the day to practice and have no travel, so that will be good."

Devils coach Peter DeBoer said forward Ryan Carter won't make the trip to D.C. and is not available for either game against the Capitals. Asked if Carter had a concussion resulting from a hit that knocked him out of Monday's game, DeBoer said he wasn't sure of the terminology.

With Carter out, rookie Stefan Matteau will take his spot on the third line with Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier. The 18-year-old has been a healthy scratch since Feb. 12 and has one goal and one assist in nine games, but DeBoer hopes his 6-foot-1, 215-pound frame will replace Carter's size and strength on that line.

"That's what you have depth for," DeBoer said. "That's why you keep around the number of guys we keep around. Hopefully Stef will jump in and be seamless. Same type of game, same big body. Those guys are hard to find. He should be well-rested with lots of energy."

DeBoer said the team has a planned team dinner for Friday while they are in Washington, but nothing special is on the schedule.

"No White House tours, if that's what you're asking," he said.

It's still a unique situation with a 48-game schedule. There are a few teams who will play three straight games against the same team -- the Anaheim Ducks play the Phoenix Coyotes on the road March 2 and 4, then host them on March 6.

The travel here is not a problem for the Devils, but it's still new for DeBoer.

"It's the first time I've done it in the NHL," DeBoer said. "If you're going to spend three nights somewhere, I can think of worse places than Washington. It's a good test for us."

Here are the likely line combinations the Devils will ice against the Capitals on Thursday night:

Alexei Ponikarovsky - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk

Patrik Elias - Adam Henrique - David Clarkson

Stefan Matteau - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Krystofer Barch - Andrei Loktionov - Bobby Butler

Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

Henrik Tallinder - Anton Volchenkov

Martin Brodeur

Johan Hedberg

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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