NHL

Capitals-Devils Preview

The Washington Capitals have a chance to clinch home-ice advantage through the playoffs and their second Presidents' Trophy this weekend. The New Jersey Devils, meanwhile, are just hoping to bolster their chances of reaching the postseason.

On the verge of getting defenseman John Carlson back, the Capitals are also hoping T.J. Oshie will be available Friday night for their road game against the New Jersey Devils.

Washington (52-15-5) can eliminate every team but Dallas for the No. 1 overall seed with a victory in Newark since the Stars, who have 97 points with seven games remaining, swept the season series. That means the clinching day could come as early as Saturday, and it might happen before Washington wraps up its home game against St. Louis depending on how Dallas fares that afternoon in San Jose.

The Capitals - seeking their first Presidents' Trophy since 2009-10 - have won three of four and snapped a three-game road losing streak with a 4-2 victory at Ottawa on Tuesday.

That game could mark Washington's final one without its top-scoring defenseman. Carlson, who has six goals and 25 assists, has been out since Feb. 24 with a lower-body injury and underwent a procedure for his ailment.

"I think Carly has the ability to be a game-breaker-type player," fellow defenseman Karl Alzner said. "Just having him in the lineup I think allows us to have a little but more freedom for all the guys to utilize their minutes more effectively. You don't have to pace yourself at all because Carly's in there playing between 20 and 26 minutes of hard minutes."

Oshie is dealing with an illness that could keep him from traveling to New Jersey, though Saturday's game against St. Louis would mark the first time he's played his former team. With Oshie likely out, the Capitals are seeking their seventh consecutive win over the Devils (36-31-7) and fourth this season.

Washington has used key third-period goals to keep that run going. The Capitals scored twice in the final 6:05 in a 4-3 home victory Feb. 20, and Paul Carey tallied the tying goal with 5:53 remaining in regulation in a 3-2 shootout win in New Jersey on Feb. 6.

Washington opened its season with a 5-3 win against the Devils, as Alex Ovechkin sparked a three-goal third period with a go-ahead tally. Ovechkin, who scored his league-best 43rd on Tuesday, has nine goals and four assists in his last 12 games in the series.

New Jersey, bidding to avoid a season sweep by the Capitals, also is attempting to reduce a six-point deficit to claim the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot. The two teams in front of the Devils - Philadelphia and Detroit - are both idle Friday.

The Devils held their ground Thursday with their fifth win in seven games, winning 3-0 at Pittsburgh on Thursday night. Kyle Palmieri scored twice and Scott Wedgewood made 39 saves in his second NHL start.

Wedgewood stopped 27 shots in his debut, a 2-1 win over Columbus on Sunday.

"I think our group is having a lot of fun trying to string some wins together in a playoff race," Palmieri said. "Some people have counted us out, but we haven't been eliminated yet."

A victory would give the Capitals a single-season franchise-record 25 road wins, bettering their 2009-10 mark. They've also won three straight in New Jersey.

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