Capitals-Devils Preview: Two Top Teams Collide in a Midseason Classic

Jennifer JohnsonAnalyst IFebruary 3, 2009

The red-hot New Jersey Devils (32-15-3 67 points) are in the midst of an eight-game winning streak.

For any of those deviled eggs who thought this team was a one-man show, think again.

Since losing future NHL Hall of Fame candidate and face of their organization, netminder Martin Brodeur to a shoulder injury, the Devils have asserted themselves, as top contenders in the Eastern Conference.

In order to stretch their winning streak to nine games, the Devils have to take down a worthy opponent.

The Washington Capitals (32-15-4 68 points) currently hold a 13-point lead over the second-place Carolina Hurricanes.

They are playing as good as to be expected, since suffering a rash of injuries as they began defending their 2007-2008 Southeastern Conference championship.

At one point, Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau was forced to recall several young players from his minor league team, the Hershey Bears to fill roster spots.

Washington’s saving grace has been their ace in the hole, Alexander Ovechkin.

In his last performance against the Ottawa Senators, “Ovie” netted his seventh career hat trick.

This was his 12th multi-goal game and left him one short of 200 career tallies.

He leads the NHL with 36 goals scored respectively.

If the Capitals want to defeat the diverse offensive attack of the New Jersey Devils, Ovechkin and Co. will need to share the puck with crisp passing and stay out of the sin bin.

New Jersey has relied on their experience to get them through the meat of their schedule.

They needed overtime in their last two victories, knocking off the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-3 on Friday night.

Veteran forward Jamie Langenbrunner tied the score at 3-3 with 31 seconds left in regulation, then flicked his third straight game-winning strike past Marc-Andre Fleury, just a minute into the extra period.

Langenbrunner scored his second straight OT game winner, after teammate Patrick Elias tied the score at 3-3 versus the Boston Bruins on Thursday.
He admits that the Devils cannot afford to live this dangerously if they want to continue to chase Boston for the Eastern Conference title.

They currently hold a five-point lead over the second-place New York Rangers in the Atlantic Division.

“I don’t think we want to start playing that game,” Langenbrunner said. “I think we feel we are a team that isn’t going to worry about anything.  We’re going to keep playing the whole game, especially the last 10 games or so, we’ve done a great job of playing the full game and the results speak for themselves.”

Yes they do, Jamie.

Still, if you look in your rear-view mirror, you might notice the good guys in red have the same game plan as your team.

And the Capitals know how to execute an offensive sequence effectively.

Against the Senators, the Capitals trailed early after nemesis Daniel Alfredsson blasted a one-timer past a sprawling Brent Johnson.

That was to be the only lead of the game for Ottawa.

The Caps unloaded a barrage of goals, and chased starting goalie Brian Elliott from the game.

They took advantage of some sloppy minor penalties, and after the second period, found themselves ahead 6-2.

Within this period, the raucous crowd at the Verizon Center enjoyed Ovechkin’s 35th and 36th goal sail past Alex Auld, but the play of the game has to be the backhanded wrist shot from Alexander Semin.

Mike Green stole the puck from a Senators forward and alertly noticed Semin racing up the ice with a full head of steam.

“Greenie” flipped the biscuit in a perfect “ally oop”-style play most utilized in basketball, not hockey.

The play worked to perfection, and the screaming, faithful sea of red couldn’t contain their enthusiasm any longer.

Washington added an empty net goal by Nicklas Backstrom to ice the 7-4 win.

Jose Theodore is scheduled to start in goal for the Caps.

He was given a much needed day off, as he was a spectator for his team’s triumph over the Detroit Red Wings.

He is 1-0-1 this season with a 2.90 goals-against average against the Devils, and is 5-13-1 with a 2.71 goals-against average in his career.

New Jersey’s Scott Clemmensen has been in net for seven contests during the eight-game winning streak, posting a 1.98 goals-against average.

In two starts versus the Capitals this season, he is 1-1 with a 3.38 goals-against average.

Stats, in the case of these two juggernauts, should be thrown out.

Think of this tango in Jersey as a one-game playoff.

One team wants to be a true contender, while the other wants to reestablish their identity as a perennial Eastern Conference powerhouse.

Check out the action on Comcast SportsNet to find out which team reigns supreme.

Prediction:  Devils: 4   Capitals: 3


Capitals captain Chris Clark will undergo season-ending wrist surgery.

He appeared in 32 games, recording one goal and five assists.

This is the second straight injury-plagued season for Clark, as he missed most of last year with a leg injury.

The last time New Jersey won nine straight games was back on November 17- December 7, 2007.

The Devils are 2-1-0 this season against the Capitals.

Both victories came via the shutout.


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