Capitals-Devils Preview

Coming off two straight losses, a matchup with beaten-up New
Jersey may be just what the NHL-leading Washington Capitals need to
get back on track.

Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals hit the road Monday night looking
to shake minor slumps against the Devils, who will once again be
without Martin Brodeur.

The Capitals (14-5-2) made a strong comeback but fell 5-4 in a
shootout against Philadelphia on Saturday. Washington overcame a
two-goal third-period deficit thanks to three power-play goals,
tying it on Eric Fehr’s goal with 39 seconds left in
regulation.

After losing 5-0 in Atlanta on Friday, the Capitals have lost
two straight for the second time this season. They haven’t dropped
three in a row since last season’s playoffs.

Against the Flyers, Ovechkin contributed an assist, but he’s
totaled only one goal and two assists in his last five games.
Washington led 1-0 after one period, but coach Bruce Boudreau felt
his team squandered other early chances.

“I thought all game we had good chances,” Boudreau said. “I was
worried after the first period when it was only 1-0 because we
didn’t get rewarded for having three 2-on-1s, two breakaways –
those are the kind of times that you put teams away and when you
let them hang around something usually happens.”

Still, the Capitals are 8-1-2 in their last 11 games. Alexander
Semin has nine goals and nine assists in that stretch.

Washington may be able to bounce back against an injured New
Jersey team that was already dealing with the absence of star
forward Zach Parise.

Brodeur is now expected miss up to two weeks after aggravating
an elbow injury in Thursday’s 3-1 loss at Toronto, while captain
Jamie Langenbrunner is still battling soreness in his neck after
crashing head-first into the boards Nov. 10.

The Devils (5-13-2) have lost three straight and are 1-4-1 in
their last six after a 3-2 loss in St. Louis on Saturday.

Mike McKenna, called up to replace Brodeur, made 24 saves in his
Devils debut, and David Clarkson and Mattias Tedenby scored for New
Jersey, which outshot the Blues 37-27.

“We had some energy. I thought we came out strong,” coach John
MacLean said. “We played really hard. We had the opportunity to go
up 3-1, but we couldn’t bury that third one.”

Getting three goals has been difficult all season for the
Devils, who have scored two or fewer goals in 15 of 20 games.

MacLean still refuses to make excuses for New Jersey, which went
0-3-0 on its road trip and hasn’t been much better at home, going
an NHL-worst 1-5-2.

“Efforts are there. Opportunities are there. But we need wins,”
MacLean said.

That may not get much easier against Washington, which beat
visiting New Jersey 7-2 on Oct. 9. Ovechkin scored two goals and
added an assist in that victory and has six goals and 13 assists in
his last 10 against the Devils, with the Capitals going 6-0-4 in
those meetings.

Ovechkin was injured for Washington’s two regulation losses at
New Jersey last November.

The status of Capitals winger Mike Knuble is uncertain. Knuble
was hit in the face with a puck against the Thrashers and sat out
Saturday against Philadelphia.