The Washington Capitals (32-26-5, 69 points) host the New Jersey Devils (35-23-5, 75 points) tonight for a 7pm start. The Devils come off a 4-3 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins last night, while the Caps, who have won three in a row, wake up one point out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Caps are one point behind the Winnipeg Jets, but have three games in hand, while they are three points out of tops in the Southeast Division with the Panthers, who lost 7-0 to the Winnipeg Jets in Winnipeg last night, and both have played the same number of games going into tonight.
“They got a lot of speed and up front they got that one good line that scoring a lot of goals,” Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter said on the Devils. “Their are mobile and they get the puck up, so we have to limit our turnovers.”
The Caps held an optional morning skate today, Dennis Wideman, Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson all took their option this morning. Mike Knuble (seven out of the last eleven games), Roman Hamrlik (fifth in a row) and John Erskine all healthy scratched tonight.
Michal Neuvirth (9-9-3, 2.83 GAA, .903 Save pct.) is in goal for his fourth straight start. Johan Hedberg (13-7-2, 2.53 GAA, .908 Save pct.) is likely in net for the Devils tonight.
Neuvirth has a career 1.46 GAA, .950 Save Pct. and a 4-0-0-2 career record against the Devils. Neuvirth also has a 2.18 GAA and .928 Save Pct. in 2012.
Caps forward Keith Aucoin drove back from Hershey yesterday after his wife gave birth to their first son on Wednesday. He arrived around 11 last night and is ready to go for tonight. Aucoin said his wife and newborn, Brayden Michael Aucoin, will be arriving tomorrow and staying with him. Little Brayden was born on leap day, but Aucoin was quick to point out that he thinks Jennifer Lopez’s kids were born on leap day as well.
“So I was pretty happy about that,” Aucoin said on the shared birthday with “J Lo”s kids.
If Aucoin does indeed play tonight, it will be his tenth game of the season with the Caps (one goal, one assist) and would then have to pass through waivers if he is sent back to AHL Hershey.
The Caps hope to get their fourth win in a row tonight, which would be their longest winning streak since they started the season 7-0-0.
Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Keith Aucoin, Joel Ward & Matt Hendricks had to say following the morning skate today.
Dale Hunter Morning Skate Audio
Keith Aucoin Morning Skate Audio
Joel Ward Morning Skate Audio
Matt Hendricks Morning Skate Audio