The New Jersey Devils will go for their first three-game winning streak of the season when they host the Washington Capitals on Friday night.
The Devils have won two in a row on three previous occasions and will catch a Washington team coming off its first shutout loss of the season as both teams will be playing the first of back-to-back games.
In their first game following the trade of 2018 MVP Taylor Hall to the Arizona Coyotes, the Devils fell behind early to the Anaheim Ducks but rallied for a 3-1 win on Wednesday.
Nico Hischier, Kyle Palmieri and Sami Vatanen scored for the Devils to give interim coach Alain Nasreddine his second straight win. The Devils are 2-4-1 since Nasreddine replaced John Hynes as coach Dec. 3.
The 20-year-old Hischier, one of Hall’s former linemates, scored his third goal in five games.
“He wants to be that guy now,” Nasreddine told reporters after the game. “I think at this stage of his career with Taylor gone now especially, he is willing to take that next step, and it’s nice to see. It’s not easy when you’re 21 (in January) to become that leader. But he’s willing to do it, he wants it and he’s only going to get better.”
Palmieri, who leads the Devils with 13 goals, said the players are proving receptive to Nasreddine’s approach.
“It’s just the clear message (from the coaching staff),” Palmieri said. “We’re starting to believe in it, and when you look and things snowball the wrong way, it’s easy for it to gain speed. We’re just going to sit there at the middle point of the hill and try to get it up over the crest and find a way to get the ball rolling in the right direction.”
That direction will be tested against the league-leading Capitals, who have been beating everyone other than the Columbus Blue Jackets of late.
The Capitals are 8-2 in their last 10 games, with both losses coming against the Blue Jackets, including a 3-0 defeat Monday night in Columbus.
“When we had a pass to make, we put it in the skates or didn’t execute the pass and it became broken plays all the time, and you end up chasing and end up in no man’s land,” Washington’s Lars Eller said. “So just poor execution was a result of that, and just not sharp.”
Columbus also beat the Capitals 5-2 on Dec. 9 in Washington.
With three days off before back-to-back games against the Devils and the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals had ample practice time to try to regain their edge.
“Our preparation gives us an advantage we feel going into games, and it has thus far through 35 games, and that is something we can easily focus on and get better at this week,” coach Todd Reirden told the Washington Post.
Washington’s T.J. Oshie has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his past nine games.
Alex Ovechkin, who leads the Capitals with 21 goals, had a game-high nine shots on goal without a score against the Blue Jackets. In 53 career games against the Devils, he has 25 goals and 33 assists.
The teams are meeting for the first time this season.
–Field Level Media