Just five days after the New Jersey Devils (17-22-7) came to Washington and blew out the Capitals (31-11-5), the two teams will meet again at Capital One Arena in a rematch on Thursday. Tune in to NBC Sports Washington for all of the action. Pregame coverage starts at 6 p.m. with Caps FaceOff Live followed by Caps Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. bringing you up to the 7 p.m. puck drop. Stick with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Postgame Live, D.C. Sports Live and Caps Overtime Live.
Here’s what you need to know for Thursday’s game.
When last we met
On paper, Saturday's game looked like a mismatch and it was...just not in the way everyone expected. The lowly Devils came limping into Washington and stunned the Caps, handing them a 5-1 thrashing. Washington looked sleepy from the very start going down 1-0 in the first period. Things devolved from there and the Devils grew more confident as the game went on and never allowed the Caps' rally we all expected.
Nico Hischier scored twice, New Jersey was 4-for-5 on the penalty kill and scored a short-handed goal to make up for the one they gave up and looked in control from start to finish.
It was easily one of the worst losses of the season for the Caps. If you dare, you can read a recap of it here.
Braden Holtby got the last start against New Jersey and allowed four goals on just 21 shots. On Thursday it will be Ilya Samsonov’s turn to show what he can do.
Samsonov is coming off the first NHL shutout of his career on Monday as he turned aside 23 shots from the Carolina Hurricanes. It was the latest feather in the cap for the young rookie as he has put together a very strong season thus far. This is the first time this season in which Samsonov will get consecutive starts.
In addition, the lines for the Caps also have not changed from Monday’s win:
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway
Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Nick Jensen
Jonas Siegenthaler - Radko Gudas
Are the Devils turning things around?
It was a pretty good weekend for New Jersey. Not only did the Devils blowout the Caps on Saturday, but they followed that performance up on Sunday with a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, ending Tampa Bay’s winning streak at 10 games. Sure, they lost to Toronto on Tuesday, but considering how bad the Devils have been for much of the season, this has been an impressive stretch.
Since John Hynes was replaced by Alain Nasreddine behind the bench, the Devils have hovered around .500 going 8-9-3. Since the start of 2020, they are 3-3-1.
Still some turmoil
Even if Nasreddine is showing some promise, there is still some work to be done with the Devils as general manager Ray Shero was shockingly fired on Sunday.
Shero engineered what was thought to be an impressive offseason with drafting Jack Hughes, signing Wayne Simmonds and Nikita Gusev and trading for P.K. Subban. The Devils, however, did not come close to meeting expectations on the ice leading to Hynes being fired in December and Taylor Hall getting traded not long after.
Midseason general manager changes are not typically reflected on the ice, but you do have to wonder if the sudden move has some Devils more focused on their long-term future in New Jersey than on Thursday's rematch.
Optional morning skate
As noted above, one factor in the Caps' poor performance on Saturday was a flat start. To combat that, Todd Reirden gave the team an optional morning skate on Thursday.
After losing 5-1 to one of the worst teams in the NHL, you would have expected Reirden to follow that performance up with a really hard practice. Instead, Sunday's practice ran for only about 20-30 minutes and the team had an optional skate prior to Monday's game. Reirden said he challenged each player to take the option to prepare how they saw fit. The result? A great start against the Carolina Hurricanes allowing the Caps to take a 2-0 lead which they never relinquished.
Reirden will look for a similar result on Thursday after giving the players again the option of choosing how to prepare for this game.
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