Capitals’ Shattenkirk to make home debut versus Devils (Mar 02, 2017)
WASHINGTON — The newest member of the Capitals makes his home debut when Washington hosts the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night at Verizon Center.
It’s been a whirlwind couple days for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who was acquired by Washington in a trade with St. Louis late Monday, joined the team in time for Tuesday’s victory over the Rangers, and took part in his first practice with the team on Wednesday.
“The best part of this team, and something I really saw (Tuesday) night, is they make plays all over the ice,” Shattenkirk told the team’s website. “Whenever they have the puck it’s about keeping the puck and holding on to possession … I definitely think I’m going to be able to read off these guys and jump into some holes.”
Shattenkirk, who notched 11 goals and 31 assists for St. Louis, had four shots on goal Tuesday night and joined the team’s top power-play unit. A free agent after the season, Shattenkirk’s acquisition is a big move by a Washington franchise that has been unable to translate recent regular-season success into a deep playoff run.
“There’s no panic in his game, that’s what I really like about him,” coach Barry Trotz told NHL.com after Shattenkirk’s debut. “You can tell he’s a veteran hockey player who has good sense, distributes the puck really well. He was making the right reads.”
The NHL-leading Capitals (42-13-7) improved to 3-3 since their league-mandated break with the 4-1 victory over the Rangers. Marcus Johansson scored twice, giving him 21 goals. He bested his previous career-high of 20, set in 2014-15 — his first season with Trotz — who encouraged him to shoot more.
“He set out to do that, and it’s all on him,” Trotz told the team’s website. “He listened to it, worked on it, kept doing it, and now he’s getting rewarded. He does a lot of things very quietly for our hockey team.”
Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen returned Tuesday, and winger T.J. Oshie (upper body injury) and blue-liner Brooks Orpik (lower body) could come back against the Devils.
New Jersey (25-25-12) ended February with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Monday. They dropped four straight and six of eight after surrendering third-period leads of 2-0 and 3-1 against Montreal.
“What it comes down to is you have to have a certain attention to detail. When you’re at that point in the game, there’s hard plays that need to be made, you have to have a certain stiffness in your game,” coach John Hynes told reporters after the game. “Unfortunately for us — it’s not that we’re not trying — we’re just not executing well enough in those situations to find ways to get those wins.”
New Jersey won its first meeting of the season against Washington 2-1 in a shootout. The Capitals took the next two — 6-2 and 5-2 — both in New Jersey.
Washington goaltender Braden Holtby is 11-3-2 with a 1.92 goals against average and .929 save percentage versus the Devils.
Devils goalie Keith Kincaid started the first three games this season against Washington. Cory Schneider is 3-5-2 with a 2.25 career GAA against the Capitals.
The Devils made a pair of trades prior to Wednesday’s deadline. They sent forward P.A. Parenteau, who is eligible to become a free agent in July, to the Nashville Predators for a sixth-round pick, and traded defenseman Kyle Quincey to the Columbus Blue Jackets for defenseman Dalton Prout.
Parenteau had 13 goals and 14 assists in 59 games for New Jersey.
The Devils’ last four losses have come by a total of five goals. On the season, they dropped 10 games in overtime and two more in shootouts.
“Everybody in here believes in the system,” defenseman Ben Lovejoy told NJ.com. “We know how we have to play to win hockey games. I think we are getting to that on a regular basis, and now we need to believe that it’s going to happen.”