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Elias returns as Devils host Capitals

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

CAPITALS (11-10-4) at DEVILS (10-12-4)

TV: CSN-DC, MSG+

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils are getting at least one significant player back in their lineup Saturday with the potential for one more while the Washington Capitals are making one significant change that indicates the potential for a platoon down the road.

Devils forward Patrik Elias will play against Washington at Prudential Center after sitting out New Jersey's 5-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday with a groin injury. Elias was injured Tuesday during New Jersey's 1-0 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"I felt pretty good in the morning and I'm going to go out there and try it," Elias said.

In addition, right wing Jaromir Jagr, who also skated Saturday morning, will be a game-time decision, coach Peter DeBoer said.

Jagr didn't play Thursday because he was sick with the flu. He also was injured Tuesday after Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo’s late hit to the head forced Jagr to leave the game in the second period. Bortuzzo was suspended two games for interference.

Elias said he knew his injury would be of the short term variety. He remains five goals shy of 400, one assist away from 600, and six points away from 1,000 for his career.

"I didn't feel anything major against Pittsburgh," Elias said. "At the end of the period I got a little hit there in the corner and from that point on the groin started tightening up. I took a couple of shifts after that and it got tighter and tighter, but I didn't feel any pop or anything. I knew it would hopefully be for a couple days. Hopefully it's not going to bother me and I can chip in."

Capitals coach Barry Trotz is putting 22-year-old center Evgeny Kuznetsov back in the lineup after making him a healthy scratch in Washington's 2-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. Kuznetsov is replacing 19-year-old rookie center Andre Burakovsky, who has played in all 25 games this season but has had his ice time reduced in recent games.

Burakovsky played 10:02 against Carolina, but did not get a shift in the final 16:41. He played a season-low 5:37 against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.

"Sometimes sitting back and watching it from a different perspective is a good part of the learning process," Trotz said. "Right now, based on performance and where we are at the center ice position as well as on the wings, we're going to platoon them a little bit maybe, but it's all on performance. I'm not a big believer in young guys not playing for long. We'll adjust accordingly."

The Capitals and Devils are trying to gain some traction after slow starts to the season. Both teams are coming off of wins that featured arguably their most complete performances of the season.

"I think signs of our foundation were definitely in that game," Washington forward Brooks Laich said of the win against Carolina. "I think one thing that was great for us is there was no one specific area of that game that plagued us throughout the game. We're capable of doing everything in the game very well, it's just that we don't do it consistent all the time and that's plagued us early on in the season. In the game against Carolina there wasn't lack of discipline or losing faceoffs or missed assignments or puck mismanagement. There wasn't one area that plagued us. I thought we played maybe our most complete game. Now we need to do it against opponents that are higher up in the standings and start doing it consistently every night to string together wins."

DeBoer said he thought the Devils "deserved" a win at Toronto after playing relatively well in their five previous games, all losses (0-3-2).

"We needed a result," he said. "We've been playing well in my mind for a half-dozen games and weren't getting rewarded. We deserved a result. We got one and now we've got to build on that."

The Devils are playing their 10th home game of the season, the fewest in the NHL. They are 3-3-3 at Prudential Center. New Jersey has played a League-high 17 road games.

"It's alright to hang your hat on the fact that you've played the most road games in the League but you have to win at home in order to make that a relevant stat," DeBoer said. "For sure we have to establish a good home record this year and obviously [Saturday night] is a four-point game."

Here are the projected lineups:

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson

Marcus Johansson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Troy Brouwer

Brooks Laich - Eric Fehr - Joel Ward

Jason Chimera - Michael Latta - Jay Beagle

Brooks Orpik - John Carlson

Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen

Jack Hillen - Nate Schmidt

Braden Holtby

Justin Peters

Injured: Mike Green (upper body), Aaron Volpatti (upper body), Dmitry Orlov (wrist), John Erskine (neck surgery)

Scratched: Andre Burakovsky, Liam O'Brien

DEVILS

Patrik Elias - Scott Gomez - Jaromir Jagr

Mike Cammalleri - Adam Henrique - Michael Ryder

Dainius Zubrus - Jacob Josefson - Jordin Tootoo

Tuomo Ruutu - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Andy Greene - Damon Severson

Jon Merrill - Marek Zidlicky

Seth Helgeson - Eric Gelinas

Cory Schneider

Scott Clemmensen

Injured: Adam Larsson (flu), Travis Zajac (lower body), Martin Havlat (lower body), Bryce Salvador (lower body), Ryane Clowe (head)

Scratched: Mike Sislo

Status report: Cammalleri did not participate in the morning skate for personal reasons but he is expected to play in the game. NorthJersey.com reported that Cammalleri's wife was pregnant and close to giving birth. … DeBoer said center Stephen Gionta will also be a game-time decision with a foot injury. Gionta did not skate Saturday morning as he was resting his injured foot. … Green will sit out his sixth straight game but he is expected to be available to play Tuesday at the Tampa Bay Lightning. … The Devils announced forward Damien Brunner cleared waivers Saturday. No decision has been made on his future with the organization.

Who's hot: For the Capitals, Fehr and Chimera have points in back-to-back games; Backstrom had a six-game point streak snapped against Carolina. He had one goal and eight assists during the streak. For the Devils, Zidlicky, Merrill, Ryder, Bernier and Gelinas each had two points in the win against Toronto. Henrique has three goals and three assists in his past six games.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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