Michal Neuvirth is expected to make a fourth consecutive start for the Capitals when the host the New Jersey Devils on Friday night at Verizon Center.
Neuvirth started two games against New Jersey this season, Nov. 12 and Dec. 23, and both ended in shootout losses for the Capitals. He has allowed five goals on 47 shots to the Devils in those two appearances for a save percentage of .894 and a 2.31 goals-against average.
In the opposite end, the Devils will go with backup Johan Hedberg, who hasn’t started since Feb. 9. He faced the Capitals once this season, on Nov. 12 when he allowed two goals on 17 shots in the Devils’ 3-2 shootout win over Washington.
New Jersey is playing in the second of back-to-back games tonight after falling 4-3 in overtime to the Boston Bruins on Thursday. The ability to jump on the Devils and Hedberg early would serve Washington well, given how they can lock down into the trap once they have a lead.
“When you get down against the Devils it seems tougher to come back in the game than against anyone,” Capitals center Matheiu Perreault said. “It’s even important for us to get off to a good start tonight, get that first goal and make them adjust their game plan.”
A few other notes from the morning skate:
— It was an optional session and a handful of players — Brooks Laich, Marcus Johansson, Alexander Semin and Dennis Wideman — chose not to skate. Coach Dale Hunter said that all of them will be ready for the game against New Jersey.
Based on the number of absences from the skate, it’s tough to gauge line combinations for tonight but given that the Capitals are on a three-game winning streak, it’s likely Hunter keeps the same combinations as before.
— New father Keith Aucoin was back in Washington, took part in the morning skate and is expected to face the Devils. Tonight would mark Aucoin’s 10th game in the NHL this season, an important benchmark because after the center would need to clear waivers in order to be reassigned to the AHL’s Hershey Bears.
The Capitals could easily keep Aucoin for the rest of the season, and that appears likely as he’s setting up an apartment here.
In less technical news, Aucoin told reporters that both his wife Maureen and newborn son Brayden are doing well. (Aucoin took care to point out his son is not named after Braden Holtby and that he hopes he is a power forward, not a goalie.)
With the Capitals at home for several days, Maureen and the couple’s French bulldog were planning on joining Keith in Washington but plans changed when she went into labor on Feb. 29, 10 days earlier than expected.
“I broke a lot of speed limits on the way there and I think I made a lot of people mad cutting them off,” Aucoin said of making the trip back to Hershey. “It was an amazing day, obviously something I’ll never forget. It’s still hard to explain right now, still in shock a little bit and kind of processing everything. It was nice to spend the day yesterday with both of them. They’re coming tomorrow, my parents are bringing them down tomorrow I can’t wait to see them both.”