Devils Make First District Visit
Dec. 22 vs. New Jersey Devils at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 pm
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: WTNT 570 AMNew Jersey Devils (18-12-3)Washington Capitals (15-11-7)
Friday brings the New Jersey Devils to the District for the first of two meetings this season. The tilt between the Capitals and the Devils closes out a three-game homestand for Washington.
The suddenly smarting Capitals will recall a pair of players from their AHL affiliate in Hershey for Friday?s game. Left wing Alexandre Giroux and defenseman Jeff Schultz will journey south from Hershey to the District to join the Caps for Friday?s game. Giroux was recalled earlier in the week, and he played 6:48 in his Capitals debut (and second NHL game) against Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
Giroux is tied for second in the AHL with 21 goals in 28 games. He is tied for the league lead in shorthanded goals, he ranks among the league?s top 10 scorers and is plus-12 defensively. Schultz was recalled briefly earlier in the month, but he did not see any game action with Washington. Schultz has three assists and is plus-8 in 27 games for the Bears this season.
The Caps are coming off a 5-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. A late and furious comeback in that game was not enough to produce a standings point, as the Caps were undone by three early power play goals.
It was only the second time in 33 games this season that the Caps had been nicked for more than two power play goals in a game. The first was in a 7-1 loss to Toronto on Nov. 24, and one of the extra-man tallies in that game came while the Maple Leafs were enjoying a two-man advantage.
Last season, the Caps allowed more than two power play goals in two of their first three games of the season. During the 2005-06 season, Washington surrendered three or more power play goals in 19 of its 82 games.
The Caps were nicked up for the game with the Lightning, but they may be even more nicked up for Friday?s dance with the Devils. Forwards Donald Brashear, Matt Bradley and Richard Zednik missed Tuesday?s game, and only Brashear has even a chance of playing Friday. Caps captain Chris Clark also has an undisclosed injury.
Defenseman John Erskine missed Tuesday?s game and could be joined on the sidelines Friday by fellow blueliner Bryan Muir, who has an undisclosed ailment.
Caps coach Glen Hanlon believes the absence of some of those players played a role in Washington?s lackluster performance in the first 50 minutes of the Tampa Bay game. That contest was the first this season in which neither Erskine nor Brashear was in the lineup.
?I honestly believe that we missed Erskine and Brashear,? says Hanlon. ?I think that was a huge part of our [loss]. No one took liberties with us, but it seemed like two big, mature NHL guys who weren?t in our room.?
Erskine?s absence was especially noticeable on the penalty killing unit.
?You have forwards who are penalty killing specific,? notes Hanlon, ?maybe John Erskine has found a role in the NHL being a real good penalty killer with just short little spurts. He has got a real good stick and he adheres to the system. I thought we really missed him a lot on our kills.?
Washington is 15th in the league with a power play conversion rate of 17%. The Capitals rank 17th in the NHL in penalty killing with a snuff rate of 82%.
Although they have lost four of their last five games (1-3-1), New Jersey is 6-3-2 in its last 11 games. Along with the Rangers, Islanders and Penguins, the Devils are one of four teams vying for positioning in the NHL?s Atlantic Division.
Regardless of the economic system in place, the Devils remain one of the NHL?s elite franchises. Over the past 15 years or so, few teams have drafted and developed players as well as New Jersey has, and the results are easy to see. The Devils have made the playoffs 15 times in the last 16 seasons and have gone on to win the Stanley Cup three times, most recently in 2003.
New Jersey has piled up 100 or more points in eight of the last nine seasons, and has not attained fewer than 95 in any of those nine campaigns.
The 2006-07 Devils are still reaping the benefits of the team?s stellar drafts of the last century. Fourteen of the players currently on New Jersey?s roster were drafted or signed originally by the Devils and have never played an NHL game in another team?s uniform. Those players are the products of 10 different drafts dating as far back as 1990 (Martin Brodeur) to as recently as 2004 (Travis Zajac). New Jersey has been able to make career Devils out of five players drafted more than 10 years ago (Brodeur, Sergei Brylin, Jay Pandolfo, Patrik Elias and Colin White).
The Devils have done well on special teams this season. The Devs are seventh in the league with a 19% success rate on the power play. New Jersey is fourth in the NHL with a penalty killing rate of 87.3%.
Notes: New Jersey is tied for the NHL lead with eight shorthanded goals allowed.