|NJD||1||0||0||(0 - 0)||1|
|WSH||2||1||1||(0 - 0)||4|
Although both are among the top three teams in the Eastern Conference, the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals represent a clear clash of styles.
So far this season, Martin Brodeur and the Devils' defense has held a clear edge on the Capitals' explosive offense.
Fresh off a record-setting performance before Christmas, Brodeur will try to lead New Jersey to a four-game season-series sweep of Washington when the teams meet in the nation's capital on Saturday night.
Brodeur's place in history as one of the all-time greats is even more secure after he broke Terry Sawchuk's NHL record with his 104th career shutout in a 4-0 win at Pittsburgh on Monday - the Devils' ninth victory in their last 10 games.
"It's great, but I wasn't focusing on it," Brodeur said. "I'm definitely happy it's passed and we can just go play, and I don't have to answer the questions about it."
The 37-year-old has shown no sign of slowing down this season, as he leads the league in wins (23) and ranks fifth in goals-against average (2.10).
New Jersey (26-8-1) brought back defensive-minded former coach Jacques Lemaire in the offseason, another reason the team ranks second in the NHL with a 2.11 team GAA.
Opponents have totaled eight goals during the Devils' current five-game winning streak, which includes back-to-back road wins that have moved New Jersey to a league-best 13-2-1 away from home.
That is a major reason why New Jersey is tied with Pittsburgh atop the NHL, one point ahead of the Capitals (23-8-6).
The Devils have been especially sharp against Washington, which leads the league with 3.57 goals per game. New Jersey has held the Capitals to six total goals in three victories.
Although two of those games were among the eight Alex Ovechkin has missed due to injury or suspension, the Capitals averaged more than five goals in their other six games without their superstar.
"It's a good sign," Lemaire said of his team's performance against Washington. "I know we played them at different times. Some of these games, I know they didn't have their full team, but we didn't have our full team either. It's good that you win these games. It builds your confidence."
It will take another strong effort to earn a second win in Washington, where the Capitals are 11-2-3. Returning from a four-game road trip, they beat Buffalo 5-2 at the Verizon Center on Wednesday for their fourth home win in a row.
Nicklas Backstrom scored the first of his two goals 1:18 into the game and Washington added a second goal before the midway point of the first period, outshooting the Sabres 15-4 in the opening 20 minutes.
"I think that's part of our game plan - we want to have a good start with a lot of energy, physical and everything," Backstrom said. "If you work hard, the goal opportunities are going to come. We played a solid 60 minutes and that's a good game for us."
Ovechkin had a goal and two assists against the Sabres, giving him six points in the last two games. The two-time reigning Hart Trophy winner leads the NHL in goals per game and points per game, but he hasn't scored on Brodeur in their last nine meetings dating back to Dec. 28, 2005.
It's unclear if Michal Neuvirth or Jose Theodore will be in net for Washington. Neuvirth, filling the backup role while Semyon Varlamov is out with a groin injury, has started and won the last two games.
Theodore is 6-14-2 with a 2.74 GAA in his career against the Devils.
|Dec 26 '09||NJD 1 at WSH 4||M. Bradley|
|Nov 14 '09||WSH 2 at NJD 5||Z. Parise|
|Nov 04 '09||WSH 2 at NJD 3||N. Bergfors|
|Oct 12 '09||NJD 3 at WSH 2 - SO||J. Langenbrunner|
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