Caps Start Back-to-Back Set in Jersey
Dec. 29 vs. New Jersey Devils at Continental Airlines Arena
Time: 7:30 pm
TV: NC8/CSN Plus
Radio: WTNT 570 AMNew Jersey Devils (20-13-3)Washington Capitals (16-14-7)
The Capitals head north to New Jersey for their first road date with the Devils this season. The Friday night game at Continental Airlines Arena is the front end of a back-to-back set of road games, the Caps? fifth set of back-to-back contests in a span of just 23 days. After this weekend, Washington has just one set of back-to-back tilts in a 34-day span.
The Caps lost both ends of a back-to-back set earlier this week, dropping a pair of three-goal decisions to Buffalo and Montreal, respectively. Washington is 1-4 in its last five games, but has won four of its last five road contests. However, the swamps of northern New Jersey have not been kind to the Caps in recent seasons.
Washington is 0-3-3 in its last six visits to New Jersey, and the Caps have not won a road game with the Devils since claiming a 3-1 triumph on Mar. 28, 2002. The Capitals have been outscored 19-7 in those last half dozen visits to the swamplands.
A win in New Jersey would enable the Capitals to accomplish something they have not been able to do in 15 years. Washington is on the verge of playing .500 or better hockey for each of the first three months of the season for the first time since 1991-92. The Caps went 4-3-4 in October and 6-6-2 in November. They?re 6-5-1 thus far in December.
Back in 1991-92, the Caps played .500 or better hockey in each of the first three months of the season and stood at 25-13-1 heading into the New Year.
If the Caps can manage a .500 or better record for the month of December, it would be the fourth straight month in which they did so. Washington closed out the 2005-06 season with a 5-3-2 month of April.
With the second half of the season just around the corner, the Caps remain in contention for a playoff berth. The Capitals are third in the Southeast Division standings and are in a four-way tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings with 39 points.
A rugged patch of schedule and some untimely blueline injuries have done the Capitals no favors in their quest to move up the tightly packed Eastern Conference standings, but a four-game homestand and some off days loom for Washington just beyond this weekend.
The path between Washington and its AHL affiliate in Hershey has become well worn recently, and the trend continues. The Caps reassigned defenseman Jeff Schultz and winger Jonas Johansson to Hershey on Thursday, and defenseman Timo Helbling joined the Caps in New Jersey on Thursday. Helbling, a 25-year-old veteran of six pro seasons in North America and Europe, played nine games with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, the sum of his NHL experience to date.
Going into Thursday night?s NHL activity, the Caps feature the league?s 15th best power play. Washington has scored on 17.2% of its man-advantage opportunities this season. The Capitals are 19th in the league in penalty killing with a kill rate of 81.6%.
The Caps and Devs met exactly one week ago in Washington with New Jersey prevailing, 4-1. It was the first meeting this season between the two old Patrick Division rivals.
Since then, the Devils absorbed a 5-2 loss to Atlanta and blanked the Penguins. The shutout over Pittsburgh come on Tuesday, and it was the 85th of netminder Martin Brodeur?s NHL career. He has passed Hall of Famer Glenn Hall and is now third on the NHL?s all-time list in that category.
Despite the overhaul of the NHL?s economic system, changes in the way the game is played and changing personnel in the New Jersey organization, the Devils remain a button-down defensive outfit that makes its opponents claw and scratch for quality scoring chances.
The Devils recently allowed 30 shots on goal or more in five consecutive games, the last of which was last Friday?s 4-1 win over Washington at Verizon Center. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it marked the first time the Devils allowed 30 or more shots in five straight games since they permitted 30-plus in six consecutive games back in February of 1994.
New Jersey?s power play has clicked on 19.2% of its chances this season, the seventh best rate in the NHL. The Devils are 10-for-35 (28.6%) with the extra man in their last seven games.
The Devils are third in the league in penalty killing with a kill rate of 88.2%. New Jersey has killed off all 18 of its shorthanded situations in its last five games and is 50-for-55 (90.9%) on the penalty kill in its 13 December games to date. The Devils have not allowed any power play goals in 10 of their 13 games this month.