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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, February 8th (All times Eastern)

New Jersey Devils (24-21-13) at Washington Capitals (26-23-9), 8 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - Two of the teams involved in the Eastern Conference's logjam for a playoff spot square off on Saturday night when the Washington Capitals play host to the New Jersey Devils.

Both the Caps and Devils have 61 points on the season, putting them three points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for third place in the Metropolitan Division. The 61 points is also three back of the Detroit Red Wings for eighth place in the East.

Washington is 4-2-1 in its last seven games and had to rally in the third period to best the Winnipeg Jets 4-2 on Thursday. The Capitals trailed by a goal heading into the frame, but Tom Wilson tied the contest 3:38 into the third and Alex Ovechkin's league-leading 40th goal of the campaign was the winner at the 7:46 mark.

Troy Brouwer added his second tally of the contest in the period to add insurance and Braden Holtby made 34 saves.

"We came out, we started winning battles and as a result we were holding the puck a little bit more -- creating some more opportunities," Brouwer said of Washington's strong third session. "Good defensive play, which led to some rushes offensively."

Ovechkin reached the 40-goal mark for the sixth time in his career and owns a 10-goal lead over Toronto's Phil Kessel for the most in the NHL.

Washington concludes a four-game homestand tonight before the league goes on break for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Caps forward Marcus Johansson found out on Friday he will be heading to Sochi, Russia to participate after getting selected to replace the injured Henrik Sedin on Team Sweden.

The Devils, meanwhile, look to record a point in a fifth consecutive game, having gone 2-0-2 over the last four. Each of their last four games have gone to overtime, including last night's 2-1 triumph over the Edmonton Oilers.

Rookie defenseman Jon Merrill scored his first career goal and it was the winner with 2:26 remaining in the bonus frame.

Michael Ryder set up the score, taking the puck away from a scrum along the right-wing boards then dishing between the circles for Merrill, who ripped a shot off the near pipe and in.

The 22-year-old Merrill had posted four assists in 30 NHL games this season before recording his first tally.

"You always dream about that kind of stuff when you're a little kid," Merrill said. "I'm sure my phone will have some texts, but I'll probably reach out to my father, first and foremost. It's good to get the first one. It's a huge win for the team, as well. That's most important."

Andrei Loktionov provided the other goal to back 19 saves from Cory Schneider for the Devils, who had failed to hold third-period leads in each of their previous three games.

Jaromir Jagr had an assist in the game, giving him 1,039 for his career. That puts him just one helper back of matching Marcel Dionne for ninth on the league's all-time list.

The Devils have won both of their earlier meetings with the Capitals this season and have taken eight of the previous 12 encounters overall.

New Jersey has won four of its last five in Washington.

02/08 16:02:50 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
UNC 78
UCLA 56
4th
TEXAM 10
LSU 20
 
4th
TEX 10
TCU 27
 
Final
TENN 64
SCU 57
Final
RMU 71
LAMON 54
Final
BUT 46
OKLA 59
Final
BRO 58
PEAY 79
Final
UTEP 62
PRIN 56
Final
CHAT 78
CCAR 67
Final
RIU 60
KU 76
Final
USCU 68
FIU 53
Final
GEOR 65
WISC 68
Final
USB 73
LIU 54
Final
XAV 82
SDU 71
Final
INDST 62
ILL 88
Final
WRST 62
CSFU 67
Final
STJOE 59
WKENT 62
Final
RIDE 45
MSU 77
Final
UNC 78
UCLA 56
2nd
WMICH 51
LBSU 59
 
2nd
GT 47
MARQ 49
 
2nd
PVU 28
STEPH 37
 
1st
MERC 32
RICE 28
 
Half
UF 27
UAB 22
 
11:00pm Tonight
WASH
SJST
11:59pm Tonight
MEM
BAY
11:59pm Tonight
UCSB
WASU
3rd
NAS 0
EDM 0
 
Final
DET 34
CHI 17
Final
DAL 10
PHI 33
3rd
SFX 0
SEA 13