Caps hope to avoid 3rd straight loss in clash with Devils

The Washington Capitals will try to avoid their first game slide of the season when they visit the streaking New Jersey Devils tonight at Prudential Center.

This evening's tilt is the opener of a home-and-home series that will end Saturday in Washington. The Capitals took three of four from New Jersey last year and have won four of five overall in the series. The Devils had won three straight on home ice versus the Caps until Washington's 3-0 decision in Newark on March 18.

Washington has lost two straight and four of its last six games since starting the season with seven consecutive victories. The latest loss came in Tuesday's home test against Dallas and marked Washington's first setback on home ice this season. It was the best-ever start to a season on home ice for the Capitals.

The Caps were looking to rebound from Saturday's 5-3 road loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday, but instead they were handed a 5-2 setback by visiting Dallas. Michael Ryder scored twice and Jamie Benn added a goal and two assists to hand Washington its first loss of the season at Verizon Center.

Alexander Semin and John Carlson netted goals for the Capitals, and Michal Neuvirth made 31 saves in the loss.

"Obviously when you give up five goals you're not doing something right," Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman said. "We're turning pucks over, missing assignments and we're just not sharp enough."

Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau has his own ideas about how to fix the club's sloppy play. He put his players through a grueling practice on Wednesday and hopes the bag skate session will help his players get back on track.

"I think they worked hard," Boudreau said. "It was a fairly tough practice. I didn't hear any of them complaining. They just knew they better put their work boots on."

The possible return of defenseman Mike Green could also help Washington tonight. Green, who has three goals and three assists this year, has missed the last six games with an injured right ankle and could play this evening.

The Caps are 3-3-0 as the visiting club this season and will play three of their next four games on the road.

While Washington has been struggling of late, the Devils enter tonight riding a three-game winning streak. It matches New Jersey's longest win streak of the season and the Devils can post four straight wins tonight for the first time since Feb. 27-March 6.

The Devils have won their last two games, including's Tuesday's home victory over Carolina, without Ilya Kovalchuk in the lineup. Kovalchuk, who has two goals and nine assists in 11 games this year, is questionable for tonight's game as well.

Adam Henrique has been on fire for New Jersey recently, posting three goals and two assists during a four-game point streak and the rookie has notched the game-winning score in each of the last two games.

On Tuesday, Henrique atoned for an earlier mistake, netting the winning tally late in the third period, sending New Jersey past Carolina, 3-2, at Prudential Center.

Carolina evened the score just past the six-minute mark of the third as Henrique inadvertently deflected a left-corner shot from Pitkanen -- which was intended for Alexei Ponikarovsky -- past goaltender Martin Brodeur.

But Henrique, who has four goals and three assists on the year, put the home team ahead to stay with 3:19 left in regulation as he circled behind the Carolina net from left to right and somehow poked the puck inside the near post before Ward could get across.

"I want to be out there in key moments and be able to contribute. I thought we just had to keep up the pressure and things would turn our way, and tonight they did for us," said Henrique.

Dainius Zubrus and Petr Sykora also tallied for the Devils, while Brodeur won after posting 25 saves.

The Devils are 4-2-1 as the host this year and will begin a five-game road trip when they visit Washington tomorrow.