Part of the fun of a 48-game compressed season against only in-conference opponents is that it includes some quirks. One of those comes this week, as the Capitals host the New Jersey Devils at Verizon Center both Thursday night and Saturday afternoon.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the Capitals hosted consecutive home games against the same opponent came in 2006 on Apr. 5 and 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes. Washington will be on the visiting end of another set of these games March 21 and 22 when it plays back-to-back games at the Winnipeg Jets.
While unusual, it could provide a glimpse of playoff-style intensity in February as the two teams are able to get better acquainted with each other in a pair of games in roughly two and a half days.
“I think it just happens naturally, because you know you’re gonna play the guy in two days,” Coach Adam Oates said. “So when you bump into a guy you know you’re going to see him for another time, so it kind of just leads to it.”
It’s the type of scheduling anomaly that can breed flaring tempers, fisticuffs and activity between the whistles, even if the two teams themselves aren’t necessarily known for stirring things up.
“Something always seems to happen in that first game that carries over to the second game. Guys don’t really forget,” Wojtek Wolski said. “I know guys that have kept grudges for a full year until you play a team the next time and you still remember what happened. So this being two nights after, I’m sure that it’s going to be highly competitive.”
Although it might make for interesting subplots as the Capitals and Devils, two teams with similar systems, try to out-do each other not all players will enjoy the repetition with opponents. In the American Hockey League, teams face the same opponents quite frequently — sometimes more than once in a weekend — and defenseman Karl Alzner wasn’t too fond of the format.
“It’s just a thing. I personally don’t love it like that. I personally like to see different teams,” Alzner said. “That’s one thing that I didn’t really like [in the AHL] was having to see Wilkes [-Barre Scranton] it seemed like four or five times in two and a half weeks. I like to have a bit of a change, but at the same time it’s good for us and for learning. We get to really test things out against a team that plays the same way as us, so that part is kind of cool.”