NEWARK, N.J. – The Capitals will be without Alex Ovechkin once more as they look to snap this six-game losing streak Friday night against the New Jersey Devils.
“I don’t know,” Coach Adam Oates said when asked to handicap the seriousness of Ovechkin’s injury. “I still haven’t found out why he went off so fast. Was it because it’s more serious than he thought or that he didn’t think it was healed enough? I don’t know.”
Oates said he embarked on this trip hoping that the star right wing would be able to play Saturday in Montreal, but at this stage Ovechkin’s status for that contest is questionable at best.
This will be the fourth time this season the Capitals have played without Ovechkin; they are 13-9-2 all time without him in the lineup. But Washington saw its offensive output dry up completely without him in a 2-0 loss to the Senators on Tuesday, and for a team struggling to score goals the Devils aren’t exactly a desirable opponent.
New Jersey allows the fewest shots on goal per game (25.5) in the league and is tied for the third-fewest goals-against average (2.28). Devils netminder Cory Schneider, who will start against Washington, is 3-1-2 with a 1.13 goals-against average and .958 save percentage in January.
>> Michal Neuvirth will make his third start in eight games Friday. He’s 4-1-3 with a .927 save percentage and 2.07 goals-against average against New Jersey all time in his career and that past history played a part in Oates opting to go with him in the first half of back-to-back games.
“I plan on splitting the goalies on the weekend,” said Oates, who while looking to get both Neuvirth and Braden Holtby involved would still like to see one seize the top spot. “I would say that if a guy won three out of four he’s probably going to get more starts but you want them both to get opportunities to play and they will. I would love one guy to make it so I can’t take him out of the net.”
>> One other roster change against the Devils: the inclusion of veteran defenseman John Erskine, who was a healthy scratch against Ottawa. Nate Schmidt will sit out as a healthy scratch.
“Looking at the lineups, Jersey’s a grinding team, they like to put it behind the net and keep it there, so I don’t expect a track meet,” Oates said. “I expect more of a grinding type game and Ersk is suited to handle their big guys. It’s a good game for him to play.”
>> Projected lineups for both teams:
Joe Whitney-Travis Zajac-Jaromir Jagr
Dainius Zubrus-Patrik Elias-Damien Brunner
Ryane Clowe-Adam Henrique-Michael Ryder
Ryan Carter-Stephen Gionta-Steve Bernier
Andy Greene-Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador-Marek Zidlicky
Eric Gelinas-Anton Volchenkov
Cory Schneider, Martin Brodeur will back up.