NHL on NBCSN: Hall-less Devils look to climb out of funk vs. Capitals

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Washington Capitals host the New Jersey Devils at 7:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

The Devils come into tonight’s game in the basement of the Eastern Conference standings with 33 points in 35 games.

They’ve also come up with just one victory in their last 10 games (1-8-1) and although they have a solid 9-3-2 record at home, they’ve been abysmal on the road (4-12-5).

New Jersey is coming off back-to-back losses to the Penguins, and tonight will be the first of two consecutive matchups with the Washington Capitals. So the schedule isn’t doing them any favors either.

Oh, and as CSN’s Tarik El-Bashir points out, they’ve also dropped seven straight games to the Caps dating back to December 2014.

As you can imagine, a slump this bad has frustrated some of the players on the team, including goalie Cory Schneider, who vented after his team’s loss on Tuesday night.

This all comes just a week after management made it clear that the team needed to play “[bleeping] harder“.

It’s not surprising, but the Devils have had issues putting the puck in the net in 2016-17. They’re one of just four teams that have yet to hit the 85-goal mark at this point (they’re at 82). The other three teams are Arizona, Buffalo and Colorado.

To make matters even worse, they won’t have Taylor Hall in the lineup, as he’s day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

After the Washington Capitals ran away with the President’s Trophy last season, many expected them to be a dominant force in the Metropolitan Division in 2016-17.

Don’t get me wrong, the Caps are still in a good spot, but they aren’t among the top three teams in their own division.

Through 33 games, they’ve accumulated 44 points, which is good enough for the top Wild Card spot.

One of the things they need to improve is their discipline. In Tuesday’s loss to the Islanders, Washington took a mind-boggling four penalties in the second period.

“We’ve been taking penalties all year,” said forward Justin Williams, per the Washington Post. “Regardless of what they look like, how they are, if we agree or disagree, penalties are killing the momentum of our team and letting teams hang around. . . . It’s too many. It’s way too many penalties, certainly myself included. We shouldn’t be taking as many.”

According to the Post, the Capitals have taken the seventh-most minor penalties (81) over the last 20 games. Thankfully for Washington, their penalty-kill has come through for them, as they’ve killed off 87.8 percent of those penalties.

Even though they’ve managed to kill most of their opposition’s power plays, it’s still physically draining to defend five-on-four so often in the course of a game.

Starting tonight, they’ll have a golden opportunity to climb up the standings. Washington will be playing seven of their next 10 games at the Verizon Center.

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