2/23 Pregame Primer: Devils at Capitals

Source: Wiki Commons

Source: Wiki Commons

New Jersey Devils (10-3-4) at. Washington Capitals (5-10-1), 12:00 pm Verizon Center, Washington D.C 

So the Devils and Capitals meet again, from the same building in a time-span of less than 48-hours.

The first game was an odd one, as the Devils found themselves in an early hole, but they got out of it thanks in part to a s slew of penalties taken by the Caps in the third period.

After the Devils found their way to a come from behind 3-2 victory, now they can go for the sweep of the two-game series in D.C. during the Saturday matinee.

Here are some thoughts/questions for today’s game:

1. Oh hey Mark Fayne! Yes, that’s right, Mark Fayne will be back in for Henrik Tallinder and it couldn’t have come soon enough. Yes, I know that Fayne had a brutal assist on Matt Read’s goal in the Flyers game that led to his benching, but outside of that major gaff, he’s been pretty good this season. You can’t say the same for Tallinder, who got burnt for a goal on Thursday.

2. Can Moose bounce back? Johan Hedberg was virtually untouched in his first few starts, but he gave up five goals to the Islanders the last time he started. You have to expect the veteran netminder to come back with a strong performance and quickly dash any thoughts that what we saw on Long Island could become a trend.

3. Starting early is key. After the Caps got out to two separate one goal leads and then blew it via penalty after penalty, you have to think that this is a mentally fragile team that could crumble if they get down early. The Devils need to get an early goal and keep going at it. If they can get out to an early multi-goal lead, they could have an easier afternoon.

4. The Specials have to be better. The penalty kill was the culprit on both Capitals goals on Thursday and the Devils power play, despite having two extended 5-on-3’s in the game only came away with the one Ilya Kovalchuk goal. Simply put, if you expect to win teams against better teams, you have to be better on special teams. The turnaround needs to start today.

5. Can Loktionov build on his performance? Andrei Loktionov nabbed his first NHL goal on Thursday and he seems like hes finally starting to find his legs in the NHL. With Jacob Josefson still in the mix for sure, can Lokti continue to impress the coaches and make the case for himself to stay in New Jersey? 

6. A 60-minute performance would go a long way. The Devils haven’t put together a good game in a while. The last time the Devils won a game by three or more goals was February 3rd against the Islanders. Can they start fast and end fast and play a full game today? These tight one or two goal games aren’t good, especially on the front end of a back-to-back.

Prediction: Devils 3 Capitals 1 

I expect a strong performance from Hedberg today and I think they’ll find a way to score a first period goal and control the game. I picked Thursday’s score dead on, so the law of averages should suggest that I’ll be brutally off today. The Capitals are a bad team right now and the Devils need all the points they can get against lesser opponents, especially with the Penguins winning 3-1 over the Panthers yesterday.

Here is the Devils lineup for today: 

Alexei Ponikarovsky – Travis Zajac – Ilya Kovalchuk

Patrik Elias – Adam Henrique – David Clarkson

Stefan Matteau – Stephen Gionta – Steve Bernier

Krys Barch – Andrei Loktionov – Bobby Butler

Bryce Salvador – Marek Zidlicky

Andy Greene – Adam Larsson

Anton Volchenkov – Mark Fayne (in for Tallinder)

Goaltender: Johan Hedberg