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Devils at Capitals preview

New Jersey trying to finish third in Metropolitan Division; Ovechkin going for seventh goal-scoring title

by Brian McNally / Correspondent

DEVILS (44-28-9) at CAPITALS (48-26-7)



The Game

The New Jersey Devils will try to finish in third place in the Metropolitan Division when they play the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on Saturday.

The Devils, who have won four in a row and are 7-0-1 in their past eight, clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday and are tied in points with the Columbus Blue Jackets at 97. New Jersey holds the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference because the Blue Jackets earned more points head-to-head in the season series (3-1-0).

New Jersey will finish third and play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference First Round only if it finishes with more points that Columbus and the Philadelphia Flyers (96). The Devils lose any two or three-way tiebreak with those teams.

Devils left wing Taylor Hall will sit despite being one shy of his first 40-goal season in the NHL.

Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin needs a hat trick for his eighth 50-goal season. He leads the League in goals (47) and is trying to the win the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy for the seventh time.

Washington has finished first in the Metropolitan Division and will play the first wild card.


Players to watch

Devils defenseman Will Butcher has nine points (three goals, six assists) in his past eight games.

Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom has 12 points (one goal, 11 assists) in his past seven games. He is three points shy of 800 for his career.


They said it

"Absolutely it's a consideration, and we talked to Taylor about that. I think that's one of the things we try to do … is the players are people too and you certainly understand that there's individual things that are important. But I think that goes to show the type of guy Taylor is and where his head's at, where his mindset's at. He's all about the team and he's all about winning." -- Devils coach John Hynes on sitting forward Taylor Hall one goal shy of 40.

"It's an advantage for them to see us, too. It's even. We see each other. We're just going to try to roll our fur lines. We could play Jersey, we could play Philly, we could play Columbus. It really doesn't matter. We're going to have to play good teams. What's separating the good teams right now in the Metro is a bad weekend." -- Capitals coach Barry Trotz on the possibility of playing the Devils in the regular-season finale and in the Eastern Conference First Round


Devils projected lineup

Jesper Bratt -- Nico Hischier -- Drew Stafford

Brian Gibbons -- Blake Coleman -- Stefan Noesen

Miles Wood -- Pavel Zacha -- Patrick Maroon

Michael Grabner -- Brian Boyle -- Jimmy Hayes

Andy Greene -- Mirco Mueller

John Moore -- Damon Severson

Will Butcher -- Ben Lovejoy

Cory Schneider

Keith Kinkaid

Scratched: Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac, Sami Vatanen, Steven Santini, Eddie Lack

Injured: Marcus Johansson (concussion)


Capitals projected lineup

Alex Ovechkin -- Evgeny Kuznetsov -- Tom Wilson

Andre Burakovsky -- Nicklas Backstrom -- Brett Connolly

Jakub Vrana -- Lars Eller -- Devante Smith-Pelly

Shane Gersich -- Chandler Stephenson -- Alex Chiasson

Dmitry Orlov -- Matt Niskanen

Michal Kempny -- John Carlson

Brooks Orpik -- Jakub Jerabek

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer

Scratched : T.J. Oshie, Christian Djoos, Tyler Boyd, Madison Bowey, Brian Pinho

Injured: Jay Beagle (upper body)


Status report

Schneider will make his first start since March 20. … Oshie, who nursed a lower-body injury earlier in the week and missed a game against the St. Louis Blues on Monday, will sit.


Stat pack

The Devils have three rookies (Hischier, Butcher, Bratt) with 30 points or more for the second time in franchise history. … Kuznetsov has 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists) in his past 17 games.

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