NEWARK – Patience has long been a struggle for the Washington Capitals. They can grow frustrated if they aren’t generating offensive chances early on in a game and will try to force plays, leading to mistakes that they can’t afford.
There is no choice but for them to be patient against the New Jersey Devils, who love to wait out opponents in tight, low-scoring affairs, and the Capitals will need to do so at even strength. The Devils own the top-ranked penalty kill (86.9 percent) in the league, meaning Washington shouldn’t try to rely on its top-ranked power play (23.7 percent) as it has done so often this year.
“Our team in the past has gotten frustrated if we haven’t scored goals early or gotten a lot of scoring chances early I think our team strays away from the system a bit and starts going on our own,” Eric Fehr said. “That’s where we need to really mature and be a little more patient and realize that it could take a full 60 minutes to get that first goal.”
While a loss against the Devils, who allow the fewest shots against per game (25.5) in the NHL and are tied for the seventh-fewest goals against per game (2.46), won’t mathematically eliminate Washington from the playoff race, it would come close. If the Capitals fall to New Jersey in regulation they would be four points back of the final wild-card spot with only five games to play and three teams to overcome without the benefit of the tiebreaker.
>> While Coach Adam Oates told reporters Thursday he planned to play rookie Connor Carrick in New Jersey, the young blueliner will instead sit out as a healthy scratch for an eighth straight game. Oates added that there hasn’t ever been any real consideration of having Carrick, a 19-year-old in his first professional season, play more in the AHL.
Washington recalled veteran Tyson Strachan from AHL Hershey, and he’ll will make his first NHL appearance since Feb. 4 skating with Dmitry Orlov against the Devils.
“We’re in a position where we don’t want to throw him to the wolves so it made sense to bring Strachs up and with this particular team as well,” Oates said. Strachan “been playing good down there and [General Manager] George [McPhee] got reports that he’s been playing well. The Devils have some big strong forwards and we thought maybe Strachs would be better suited for that tonight.”
>> Jaroslav Halak (28-12-7, 2.30 goals-against average, .918 save percentage) gets the start for the Capitals and will be opposed by Cory Schneider (14-14-11, 2.07 goals-against average, .916 save percentage). The plan, Oates said, is for Braden Holtby to start on Long Island Saturday but that could change depending on the outcome of Friday’s game.
>> Projected lineups for both teams
Tuomo Ruutu-Travis Zajac-Jaromir Jagr
Adam Henrique-Patrik Elias-Damien Brunner
Dainius Zubrus-Jacob Josefson-Michael Ryder
Ryan Carter-Tim Sestito-Mike Sislo
Andy Greene-Mark Fayne
Eric Gelinas-Adam Larsson
Anton Volchenkov or Peter Harrold – Marek Zidlicky
Cory Schneider is expected to start, Martin Brodeur will back up.