The New Jersey Devils will battle the Washington Capitals Friday night in Newark, N.J., in a game that will have a hard time matching the action from their last encounter.
Washington visited New Jersey on Oct. 25, and that night the Capitals scored the only three goals in the first period, the Devils notched all four in the second and the Capitals scored three in the third for a 6-4 win.
That game is notable for being the only time this season Washington has scored more than three goals, as the Capitals rank 31st in the league with an average of two goals per game. Captain Alex Ovechkin — in pursuit of Wayne Gretzky’s goals record — has scored twice in 11 games for new coach Spencer Carbery.
“It’s still early and I think younger players and older players are adjusting here,” general manager Brian MacLellan told NHL.com regarding Ovechkin. “I think he’s getting looks and I think they’ll eventually go on in for him.”
Washington had won four of five under Carbery before a 4-3 overtime home loss to the Florida Panthers on Wednesday. In that game, the Capitals lost a 3-2 lead in the third period and the Panthers scored 15 seconds into overtime for the win.
“We made some egregious mistakes with the puck that, against a team like them, you just can’t make,” Carbery said. “We just made some really mind-boggling plays with the puck, decisions with the puck, positional stuff in the second and third periods.”
Anthony Mantha scored twice for the Capitals and Connor McMichael had a short-handed goal and an assist. Darcy Kuemper made 21 saves.
In the midst of his best game of the season, Mantha was struck in the ear with a deflected shot in the third period and had to leave. He is day-to-day and will not travel to New Jersey, but there is a chance forward Nic Dowd (upper body) could return Friday. Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk (lower body) was placed on injured reserve Thursday.
The Devils have their own injury issues. Leading scorer Jack Hughes (shoulder) is week-to-week and Nico Hischier (concussion) is day-to-day. New Jersey got some good news on Thursday when forward Tomas Nosek practiced with the team after having been out since Oct. 13.
“One practice is a great start, but the next step becomes being game-ready,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “Today was the first step, obviously he’s close now, one practice, probably get him a couple more practices and he’ll be ready.”
The Devils return home after a 2-2 road trip that ended with a 6-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday. The game was tied 3-3 after two periods but Ryan Johansen, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen scored in the final 20 minutes for the Avalanche.
“I think it comes down to letting their big players take advantage of the opportunities we gave them,” Ruff said. “I thought MacKinnon took the game over in the third period. Just his speed, got behind us a few times. We weren’t diligent enough to stay above.”
Tyler Toffoli and Dougie Hamilton each had a goal and an assist for the Devils, and former Capital Vitek Vanecek made 26 saves.
–Field Level Media