The New Jersey Devils are off to a fast start in this lockout-shortened season, registering wins in their first two contests, while the Washington Capitals appear to be heading in the opposite direction.
The Capitals, under head coach and former Devils assistant Adam Oates, have dropped all three of their games this season—a dubious position that the franchise has not been in since the beginning of the 1993-94 campaign. They've also been outscored 14-6 in those three losses.
Despite Washington's struggles, New Jersey head coach Pete DeBoer isn't taking tonight's home match up lightly, preferring to look at the Capitals like a dangerous squad that is due for a win.
"I think one of the things we want to concentrate on fixing is dictating more of the play,” DeBoer said. “I thought we stood around in the first period against the Flyers and really let them dictate the play. We’ve got to make sure from the drop of the puck that it’s our building and we’re dictating the way the game goes. Watching them [the Capitals] play, I see signs of improvement. I told our guys I think they’re a dangerous team in that I can see them getting better every day.”
As for Oates, the 2012 Hall of Fame inductee and former New Jersey assistant, DeBoer was complimentary and confident that he will turn things around.
“He’s a hell of a coach and it’s a just a matter of time before they get things together. Hopefully, it’s not tonight.”
In preparation for tonight's tilt, DeBoer announced that newly acquired Krys Barch will make his Devils debut after being a healthy scratch for the first two games. Barch, whose recent claim to fame was a notorious lockout-related Twitter rant last fall, said he's excited to get back on the ice. The enforcer, who has racked up 669 penalty minutes in 304 career NHL games, hasn't played since the end of the regular season last spring.
“It will be nice to get out there and start to earn the trust of your teammates,” Barch said. “That only comes from playing games, especially with what’s involved in my role. You have to be involved to make an impact.”
The Devils also got some positive news regarding Adam Henrique, who is recovering from surgery on his left thumb to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament. The center, who helped carry the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals as a rookie last season, participated in Friday's morning skate for the first time this season, though DeBoer stressed that the timetable for Henrique's return to the lineup is "seven to ten days."
Still, Henrique's presence had a positive effect on the team's morale.
"It's good to see him back...it's obviously a big plus when we can get him back out there," said David Clarkson. "He's definitely a big part of this team and will be a big part of this organization for a long time, so it will be great to get him back in the lineup."
Getting Henrique back on the ice will only help New Jersey, who will attempt to log their fifth and sixth points of the young season tonight. The puck drops at 7 p.m. at the Prudential Center.