Jan 25, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils center Jacob Josefson (16) skates with the puck past Washington Capitals defenseman Tomas Kundratek (36) during the first period at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Devils - Capitals: What To Watch For

Coming off a stretch that included a couple tough games, the New Jersey Devils (9-3-4) will open a pair of battles against the Washington Capitals (5-9-1) tonight. Unlike the previous three back-to-back sets the Devils have played this season, both of these games will be on the road. It’s the Devils first game since their 2-1 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators on Monday afternoon. The puck is slated to drop at 7 p.m. at Verizon Center. Here are the game notes and the preview:

Carter Out: After leaving in the second period of Monday’s loss, forward Ryan Carter did not travel with the team and will miss both games against the Capitals this weekend. Rookie Stefan Matteau skated with Steve Bernier and Stephen Gionta on New Jersey’s third line in practice and will probably play there tonight.

Back to a Rhythm: It’s been a rough stretch over the last four games for the Devils, going 1-2-1 during that time-span. But, these two games give the Devils, who have retained their first place lead in the Atlantic Division, a chance to create some distance. It’s been all struggle for Washington this season, and New Jersey should look to pounce on the last-place Capitals.

Capitol Problem: No one really knows why the Capitals have played so poorly this season, but it is unexpected. In 15 games, captain Alex Ovechkin has registered five goals and five assists, with a minus-six rating — way below the expectations of him coming into the season. The fact that Washington was a game away from facing the Devils in the Eastern Conference final last season doesn’t make them feel too much better, either.

History in the Making: It’s only the second time in Devils’ history that they will be playing a team, twice in a row, in the same arena in the regular season. New Jersey played the Philadelphia Flyers two straight times in Continental Airlines Arena in 2006, winning both of those games. This sort of schedule makes sense for Eastern Conference teams, particularly Southeast Division, playing the Winnipeg Jets for obvious travel reasons, but it doesn’t seem logical in this situation.

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Tags: Game Preview New Jersey Devils Washington Capitals

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