Alexander Ovechkin is trying to end the worst scoring slump of his young career. That may prove hard to do in New Jersey.
The Devils look to extend a seven-game home winning streak against the Washington Capitals and shut down Ovechkin again when the teams continue their season series Saturday.
Ovechkin has one goal and one assist in his last nine games, and is pointless in four straight. The second-year forward ranks among the NHL's leaders with 34 goals and 72 points.
"In the long term it makes you stronger," Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said. "There are very few players who go from start to finish in their careers without having a little bit of a stall, especially the offensive guys."
New Jersey (38-17-6) has held Ovechkin to two goals and three points in six games, all Washington losses. That is Ovechkin's lowest point total against any team he has faced more than twice.
The Devils have been particularly effective at shutting down the Capitals (23-18-10) at home, where they haven't lost to Washington since a 3-1 defeat on March 29, 2002. The Capitals have been outscored 23-10 in that span while converting just 9.1 percent (2-for-22) of their power-play chances.
New Jersey has won six straight overall against Washington, including two wins this season, since a 3-1 loss on Feb. 19, 2004.
The Devils come into the game having won eight of 10. They swept a home-and-home series with the New York Rangers this week to move seven points ahead of second-place Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Division and stay within five of Eastern Conference-leading Buffalo.
"The last two games have had a lot at stake," New Jersey coach Claude Julien said after a 3-2 win in New York on Thursday night. "For them, battling for a playoff spot and for us to stay in the hunt."
Martin Brodeur earned his 38th win while making his 31st straight start for the Devils. He has given up three goals during a three-game winning streak.
Patrik Elias, who leads New Jersey with 57 points (20 goals, 37 assists), returned Thursday after missing the previous game with the flu. He has four goals and 12 points in his last 10 games.
The Capitals have lost five straight since a 4-3 win over Los Angeles on Feb. 8. They've lost seven straight and 13 of 14 on the road, earning their only win during that stretch against Carolina on Jan. 18.
"We're a pretty positive group, focus on the positives," Hanlon said. "We keep on trying to emphasize the things we do well and keep on correcting mistakes."
Washington's power-play unit struggled again Wednesday night, going 0-for-3 in a 3-2 shootout loss to San Jose.
The Capitals have converted 11.8 percent (4-for-34) of their opportunities with the man advantage in their last nine games. Two of the four goals came on fortuitous bounces in a loss to the Rangers on Feb. 10.
Shaone Morrisonn and Brian Sutherby scored in regulation Wednesday for the Capitals, who are 1-8 in shootouts. It was Morrison's first goal in 43 games.
Washington captain Chris Clark, third on the team with 24 goals, is listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury. He did not see any action following his first shift of the third period Wednesday after being hit hard in the offensive zone.
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