The New Jersey Devils have reached must-win territory in their quest to overcome an awful start to the NHL season and reach the Eastern Conference playoffs. With just 12 games to play the Devils (70 points) are six points behind the eight-place Buffalo Sabres, but stand in 12th place with four teams to climb over.
New Jersey hosts one of the league's best teams, the Washington Capitals, tonight at the Prudential Center (7 p.m.). The Capitals had a nine-game winning streak snapped Wednesday at Detroit, losing 3-2. With a win tonight in regulation the Capitals could tie Philadelphia for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Caps haven't lost two straight since a three-game skid from Feb. 8-14 and can also punch their ticket to the postseason with a victory tonight and a regulation loss by ninth-place Carolina versus the New York Islanders.
The Devils have just four regulation losses in their last 29 games (23-4-2), but Thursday night's 3-1 setback in Ottawa could prove costly. New Jersey is trying to dig itself out of an early-season hole and make the playoffs, but has just 12 games remaining and four teams between it and a postseason spot.
"We played decent. We had our chances, we just didn't score," Devils head coach Jacques Lemaire said.
New Jersey returns home for one game before starting a four-game swing on Sunday. The club is 12-1-1 in its last 14 at the Prudential Center.
-- Sports Network contributed to this report