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NHL on NBCSN: Devils host Capitals as both try to keep playoff hope alive

Apr 4, 2014, 9:45 AM EDT

Washington Capitals v New Jersey Devils Getty Images

NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the New Jersey Devils host the Washington Capitals at the Prudential Center at 7:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

People say desperate times call for desperate measures. If that’s the case tonight in Newark, the Devils and Capitals will both be reaching deep into their respective bags of tricks.

The Capitals are currently four points behind Columbus for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference and the Devils are five points back. Both teams need a win tonight to keep their fading hopes alive of reaching the playoffs and, likely, facing the Boston Bruins in the first round.

Both teams have had their issues lately.

For Washington, much of the grumbling has centered around Alex Ovechkin‘s struggles at even strength. The reigning league MVP went the month of March without an even-strength point and has been getting crushed for his league-low plus/minus rating of minus-36.

While Ovechkin has 48 goals this season, he’s done the bulk of his damage on the power play. If the Capitals are going to stick around in the playoff race, they have to find a way to get Ovechkin and the rest of the top line working 5-on-5.

For now, at least, he won’t have Jay Beagle centering his line as coach Adam Oates has put Mikhail Grabovski and Nicklas Backstrom with Ovechkin. It’s the ultimate “put all your eggs in one basket” move.

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The Devils have their own problems to worry about. Despite Cory Schneider having played outstanding for most of the season, he’s been cold lately. With Martin Brodeur there to back him up, that would ideally mean things stayed steady. Instead, Schneider’s play has been equal with Brodeur’s and that’s not a good thing considering the future Hall of Famer is nearing the end of his career.

What that’s meant for New Jersey is they’ve needed to score more goals. That task has been fine for the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias, and Adam Henrique but contributions from others have been a bit scattered. Travis Zajac netting a hat trick against Florida was a good sign, but they need more and from many others.

One thing the Devils have to find a way to do is avoid going to the shootout. They’re 0-11 in shootouts this season and while they’ve lost three of the past four games, all three losses came in the skills competition.

The biggest “What if” question Devils players and fans could wind up asking themselves is, “What if they won half of those shootouts?” If they did, they’d be right in the mix for the postseason with Columbus and Detroit instead of desperately needing a win to stay in the hunt.

  1. terrier92 - Apr 4, 2014 at 9:55 AM

    Please the Capitals are toast The time to push playoffs has long since passed. Get out the sticks hit the links boys

  2. govtminion - Apr 4, 2014 at 9:56 AM

    If I’ve learned anything about the Capitals in seven years of living in this city, it’s that a ‘must win’ Caps game means they’ll be getting blown out tonight.

    I don’t say that out of malice or frustration, more… I guess ‘resignation’ is the word. When it matters most, the Caps don’t even find new and interesting ways to come up short… it’s the same old way, every time. So much potential, so little to show for it, year after year. Usually that massive failure comes in a huge playoff game like a Game 7 (pick one, there’s been a few), but this year it looks like they’re intent on getting the heartbreak out of the way early.

  3. hockey412 - Apr 4, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    I’m rooting against Toronto, Washington, and the Devils at this point. Detroit (a banged-up Detroit anyway) and Columbus being the wild cards just kind of adds the ‘underdog’ aspect to the playoffs. Toronto and Washington have just kind of been a roller coaster all year.

    • hockey412 - Apr 4, 2014 at 10:08 AM

      Come to think of it, this was probably not the best venue for that comment….sorry – perhaps I’ll go keep my opinions to myself!

  4. TurnerSchottenheimerSpurrierGibbsZornShanahanGruden - Apr 4, 2014 at 4:30 PM

    “For now, at least, he won’t have Jay Beagle centering his line as coach Adam Oates has put Mikhail Grabovski and Nicklas Backstrom with Ovechkin. It’s the ultimate “put all your eggs in one basket” move”

    I wouldn’t call that a “move”. I would call that “the way it’s supposed to be”.

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