The Capitals (37-17-6) enter Saturday's game looking to rebound from a disastrous stretch that has seen them lose three straight and five of their last six. Will they be able to rebound against the New Jersey Devils (23-27-10)? Catch the game broadcast and all the pre and postgame action on NBC Sports Washington. Pregame coverage begins at 12 p.m. with Caps FaceOff Live followed by Caps Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. bringing you up to the 1 p.m. puck drop. Stick with NBC Sports Washington after the game broadcast for postgame coverage with Caps Postgame Live and Caps Overtime Live.
Here is what you need to know for Saturday's game.
Alex Ovechkin snapped a season-long five-game goal drought on Thursday with his 699th career goal. He now sits just one away from becoming the eighth player in history to score 700 goals.
Changing things up
With Washington struggling, Todd Reirden made a few changes to the lines at Friday's practice. Evgeny Kuznetsov moves to the top line with Nicklas Backstrom moving down to the second. Brendan Leipsic is back in on the fourth line for Travis Boyd and the defense is shuffled up with Jonas Siegenthaler back on the third pair with Radko Gudas out.
Reirden cautioned that those may not be the lines he ultimately will settle on Saturday, but with no morning skate, Friday's lineup will very likely be what we see against the Devils.
Here are the lines from Friday's practice:
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway
Brenden Dillon - John Carlson
Michal Kempny - Dmitry Orlov
Jonas Siegenthaler - Nick Jensen
With a game on Saturday and Sunday, Reirden was likely to split the goalie starts over the weekend and that is what he will do. Ilya Samsonov will start Saturday game while Braden Holtby will play Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This will be Samsonov's first game since getting pulled against the New York Islanders on Feb. 10 for the first time in his NHL career. Overall, it has been a great rookie season for Samsonov with a 16-4-1 record, 2.38 GAA and .917 save percentage. While the loss to the Islanders certainly cannot be laid on Samsonov's shoulders, the team defense was atrocious, it will be interesting to see how he responds to what was statistically his worst NHL game.
When last we met
Saturday's game will be the fourth and final meeting between Washington and New Jersey this season. The Caps have won two out of three, including the last time these two teams met on Jan. 16 at Capital One Arena.
Ovechkin took a stick to the face from Devils defenseman Miles Wood and left bloodied, but returned to the game to score twice in the first period and finished off the hat trick in the third.
Heading in the wrong direction
The Devils are not a good team, but don't make the mistake of thinking they will be a pushover. If you want to know how tough this stretch has been for Washington, the Caps are 11-11-1 since Dec. 23 and are tied with the New York Islanders for the fewest points in the Metropolitan Division during that stretch.
During that same stretch, lowly New Jersey has gone 12-8-5. Since Dec. 23, the Devils have arguably been the better team, at least in terms of the standings. If given the choice between the two rosters, obviously anyone would pick Washington's, but the record of both teams certainly reflects how difficult things have been for the Caps of late.
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