Caps go for 7th straight against sinking Devils

WASHINGTON — The Washington Capitals go for their seventh straight win when they host the New Jersey Devils on Friday night at Capital One Arena.

New Jersey (9-10-4) is streaking in the opposite direction having dropped three in a row (0-1-2).

The Capitals (14-7-3) could get boost Friday with the return of forward Evgeny Kuznetsov, who missed the last six games with a concussion. Kuznetsov was Washington’s leading scorer (nine goals, five assists in 18 games) at the time of his injury. He was a full participant in Thursday’s practice.

“Yeah, we’re hoping,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said after Thursday’s practice. “He has not been cleared yet so today was the first step in him going through a little bit more than just a random skate around. Today was going through some more drills and that’s the natural progression. It was nice to see him back out there.”

Forward T.J. Oshie, who got a concussion in the same game as Kuznetsov, has yet to resume skating.

Alex Ovechkin missed Thursday’s practice, gut the team said it was a maintenance day for an upper body injury and Reirden expects him to play.

The Capitals have outscored teams 24-13 during their winning streak. One reason is their improved penalty kill. After allowing at least on power play goal in 15 of their first 20 games, the Capitals have allowed none in their last four, killing off 13 straight penalties.

“We knew we were on the cusp of doing some good things and were kind of ending up on the wrong side of some bounces and some plays ending up in our net,” Reirden told the Washington Post. “It’s still not perfect by any means, but at least we’re headed in the right direction.”

The Devils may have an addition to their lineup Friday night. The team called up Michael McLeod, their 2016 first-round draft pick. He began his pro career in the AHL in 2018-19 and would be making his NHL debut. McLeod had three goals and seven assists in 21 games with Binghamton this season.

“He’s a fast, tenacious player and adds size to our lineup. He’s very competitive,” Devils coach John Hynes told the Newark Star Ledger. “That’s something we’ve talked about wanting more from our forward group, is guys that are harder to play against. He adds kind of both, the speed element and some more size. Hopefully he comes in and takes someone’s job.”

In addition, the Devils may get forward Marcus Johansson back against his former team. Johansson, who has three goals and five assists, missed the Devils’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers on Monday due to a lower body injury.

The Devils placed forward Jean-Sebastien Dea on waivers and he was claimed by the Penguins. He was claimed off waivers from the Penguins before the season began and had three goals and two assists.

With both teams off since Monday, the game should feature goalies Keith Kincaid of New Jersey and Braden Holtby.

Kincaid is 3-3 with a 3.24 goals-against average (GAA) and .882 save percentage against the Capitals, while Holtby is 15-3-3 with a 1.98 GAA and a .925 save percentage versus the Devils.