Both the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals have struggled mightily this season.
The two teams will look to turn things around tonight as they square off at the Verizon Center.
New Jersey, 9-21-2 on the season, carries an eight game road-losing streak into tonight's game. The Devils are a meager 2-8-0 in their last ten games, including a 7-1 blowout loss to the Atlanta Thrashers Saturday night. In that game, fourth-liner Eric Boulton recorded his first career hat trick. Devils coach John MacLean pulled Martin Brodeur in the second period, and Ilya Kovalchuk managed to score the only goal.
Kovalchuk called the Devils' effort embarrassing.
"Everything went wrong," Kovalchuk said. "I don't know what. It's unacceptable. It's embarrassing."
The Capitals, used to President Trophies and 100 point seasons, are struggling to play consistent hockey. Washington, 2-6-2 in their last ten games, suffered through an eight game losing streak. The team finally got a win, defeating the Ottawa Senators, 3-2, Sunday night. AHL callup Matthieu Perreault led the comeback, scoring the team's first goal in the second period and the game-winner in the third.
Perreault said the team felt relieved after the win.
"It felt like we won the championship," Perreault said. "It’s been so long since we won and it’s just a great feeling."
The Devils and Capitals split two meetings this season, each winning on home ice. The Capitals defeated the Devils, 7-2, October 9 at the Verizon Center. Brodeur allowed five goals on 19 shots, and Alex Ovechkin tallied twice for the Capitals.
The Devils blanked the Capitals, 5-0, November 22 at the Prudential Center. The Devils struck for three goals in the first period against Caps goalie Braden Holtby. Jason Arnott finished with two goals, and Johan Hedberg stopped 30 shots for the win.
Coach John MacLean hopes the team can replicate their effort from that last victory.
"You would hope that we remember that," he said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. "Hopefully that will jog some memories as far as how you have to play. We've had trouble replicating things here so far. So, we're going to have to be ready to compete and win battles, make a commitment, sacrifice for one another. All simple things."
In an attempt to kickstart the offense, MacLean shook up his lines for tonight's game. Ilya Kovalchuk will skate with Tim Sestito and Mattias Tedenby, and Jason Arnott has been demoted to the fourth line. MacLean hopes the changes will spark something with the team.
"Coming off a loss like that (to Atlanta), we'll try that," MacLean said of the new line combinations. "Anything is open as far as trying right now. We'll keep working at it with different combinations until we get it right."
The changes may be what the Devils need to turn their play around.