If there was anytime the New Jersey Devils needed to win, it’s now -- and pretty much every game from here on out. After losing to the Ottawa Senators for the second time in the last two weeks, the Devils host the NHL’s hottest team, the Washington Capitals, on Friday night at the Prudential Center. The puck drops at 7 p.m. Here’s what we’ll be watching for:
DO OR DIE: The Devils couldn’t afford to lose to the Senators on Thursday night, but they did anyway. Their playoff chances were already slim, and they’ve become even slimmer. With 12 regular season games remaining, New Jersey (33-33-4) needs to go 10-2-0 to get to 90 points. The Devils currently trail the Buffalo Sabres (76 points, 70 games played) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The New York Rangers (72 points, 71 games played), who sit in the seventh position, are ahead of the Devils by eight points.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: The Capitals, who trail the Philadelphia Flyers by two points for the top spot in the East, come into Friday night’s action riding a nine-game winning streak. Washington has outscored its opponents 27-14 during that span. The Devils, despite struggling to score goals of late, have been solid in their own end. Although they surrendered three goals in regulation to the Senators on Thursday night, the Devils had not given up that many goals in regulation since Feb. 4. Obviously, the onus will be on New Jersey’s blue-line corps to shut down Alexander Ovechkin -- if that’s possible. In his last eight games against New Jersey, the superstar sniper has recorded six goals and 10 assists.
MARTY THE GREAT: Goaltender Martin Brodeur (20-21-2, 2.50 GAA, .902 SV PCT) has been absolutely stellar of late, allowing two goals or fewer in his last 12 starts. And Brodeur will need to come up huge in this one. It appears as though interim coach Jacques Lemaire plans on riding his 38-year-old future Hall of Fame netminder until the end of the season. The question is: can Brodeur hold up through all the rigor? This will be his 10th consecutive start. He’s 7-2-0 in his last nine.