Capitals-Devils Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 10, 2011
The New Jersey Devils have been without three-time All-Star Ilya Kovalchuk for the past two games but haven't missed a beat. The Washington Capitals have been without star defenseman Mike Green for nearly three weeks, and his absence has been quite apparent. With the status of both uncertain for the opener of a home-and-home series Friday night at the Prudential Center, the Devils will look to win a season-high fourth straight while sending the suddenly struggling Capitals to a third consecutive defeat. Kovalchuk has sat out the last two games for New Jersey (7-5-1) with a lower-body injury. The left wing, second on the team with nine points, has reported some improvement but did not practice Thursday. "When you have players like that out of the lineup, your attention to detail, I think, gets better out of necessity," coach Peter DeBoer said after Tuesday's 3-2 win over Carolina. Rookie center Adam Henrique certainly seems to be playing with greater focus. Henrique scored the game winner at 16:41 of the third period Tuesday after scoring in overtime in Saturday's 3-2 victory over Winnipeg. All of his first four career goals have come during New Jersey's three-game winning streak, and Henrique is the first Devils rookie to be credited with the winning goal in two consecutive games since Patrik Elias on Nov. 8-10, 1997. "The kid obviously has a knack for big goals,'' DeBoer said of the 21-year-old. "He has speed, skill, good size and a unique composure for a young guy. The game is moving on around him and nothing rattles him. I really like that about him. Pressure doesn't get to him and he's able to rise to the occasion.'' While Henrique is doing an outstanding job of carrying the offense in Kovalchuk's absence, the Capitals (9-4-0) are having a hard time finding someone to fill the void left by Green's injury. Green has missed Washington's last six games with a sprained right ankle, but did fully participate in Wednesday's practice. He is still listed as day-to-day. With Green in the lineup, the Capitals won the season's first seven games, allowing an average of 2.0 goals. Since he went down, Washington is 2-4-0 and is allowing double that. The Capitals are coming off Tuesday's 5-2 loss to Dallas, the second straight game they surrendered five goals in a defeat. "It's a mystery, because our group is much better than that,'' forward Mike Knuble said. "We're a veteran group and that shouldn't happen.'' Knuble has one goal in his last eight games, but had three goals and two assists in three contests against New Jersey last season - all victories. The Capitals went 3-1-0 against the Devils in 2010-11, outscoring them 15-3 in their victories. Alex Ovechkin, who leads Washington with six goals, had two goals and four assists. Martin Brodeur has struggled against the Capitals lately, recording a 4.64 goals-against average in losing his last four starts against them - tied for his longest current losing streak against any opponent (Boston, Philadelphia). The four-time Vezina Trophy winner, who missed six games earlier this season with a right shoulder injury, has started the last two games for the Devils, allowing two goals in each. Tomas Vokoun could be back between the pipes for the Capitals after getting the night off Tuesday. He is 1-2-0 with a 3.90 GAA in his last four starts, and 1-3-0 with a 2.28 GAA against the Devils since 2009-10.
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