New Jersey Devils at Washington Capitals - 7:00 pm
Verizon Center - Washington, D.C.
TV: MSG Radio: WFAN 101.9 fm, 660 am
No rest for the weary as the New Jersey Devils make their way down to D.C. for their first meeting of the season with their new divisional foe, the Washington Capitals. All this the day after losing at home in overtime to the Anaheim Ducks and local-boy Kyle Palmieri. But, despite failing to claim the second point in last night's affair, the Red and Black are going to come into Nation's Capital with their heads held high. New Jersey has been playing some terrific hockey. Their goaltending and team play in the D-Zone are as reliable as anyone could have hoped for, but right now it's their offense that has been steering the ship, outscoring opponents 12-8 in the last 4 games, with contributions from up and down the bench.
Unfortunately, all those goals haven't always translated to wins. The Devils are 3-4-2 in the month of December, and are still one game below NHL .500 on the season at 14-15-7. Their opponents, on the other hand, are enjoying a good and high scoring year, particularly at home, which has brought them to second place in the Metropolitan Division. As usual, The Caps are led by their bonafide superstars in Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, with 40 and 41 points, respectively. But, don't think that these are their only two threats. The Capitals have a much more balanced offense than they had in years past. With 5 players at 20 or more points across 3 lines, scoring can come from anywhere.
Some thoughts on tonight's game:
1. First goal. It's a little obvious, but it's still worth mentioning. Washington is a high-scoring, fast-paced team, with a strong 12-7-0 record at home. If the Devils are going to be successful in tonight's game, they're going to have to make sure to quiet that D.C. crowd early and not let Washington get rolling. It also would be nice for New Jersey to have a quick cushion when playing against a team that has scored 26 more goals than the Devils this season.
2. No Damien Brunner. In a night where New Jersey will need as many goals as they can get, they'll have to get them without their hottest goal scorer. The knee-injury that Damien Brunner sustained in last night's game will not require surgery, but it will cost the Swiss winger 4 weeks. There's never a good time for an injury, but this has to be all the more frustrating for Brunner who had finally shaken off that long 17 game slump to go on a tear, with 4 goals and an assist in his last 5 games.
3. Marty vs. Ovi. It's always exciting to see these fire and ice matchups; the unstoppable force and the immovable object. That is what you have every time the greatest of all time in Martin Brodeur goes up against one of the best scorers of this, or any, age in Alexander Ovechkin. This being their first matchup of the season, it's anybody's guess as to how things will go. Historically, the Devils and Brodeur have played Ovechkin well, however it was just last year that a struggling Alex the Great came alive against the Devils; a game that served as the catalyst for one of the better seasons in his amazing career.
Prediction - Devils 4 - Capitals 3
The strength of the Capitals offense cannot be ignored, but the Devils defense might just have the answer. The Devils have been stingy, only allowing more than 3 goals 7 times this season, and several of those games occurred during the disastrous beginning that the Devils endure this year. It's clear that they're not the same team anymore. And, while the Caps' offense is great, their defense is still suspect. With the Devils playing the way that they are, the Caps are going to need a great performance from Braden Holtby to keep the Devils from stealing one in their house.