New Jersey clearly isn’t the same team without Stevens, who has missed the last four games with an unknown ailment that might have been caused by a hit earlier this season.
The rugged defenseman, said to be suffering from the flu, is expected to be out another seven to 10 days.
New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello said Stevens has recovered from the flu, but still isn’t feeling well. After a series of tests, including blood and neurological studies, everything has been ruled out—except possible post-concussion syndrome from an unknown hit.
“We’re going to make sure he feels 100 percent,” Lamoriello said. “He will be the determining factor, and he doesn’t feel that way right now.”
In four games without Stevens, the Devils are 1-2-1. They are just 3-5-3-1 in the past 12 contests, but haven’t lost much ground in the Atlantic Division because first-place Philadelphia is also struggling.
“Anytime you lose the heart and soul of your hockey club, it’s going to make a difference,” goalie Martin Brodeur said. “You get by for a certain amount of time. You need other guys to step up.”
The Devils, who play four of their next five at home, have been outscored 12-3 in three straight losses at Continental Airlines Arena.
Although the Capitals are still far from playoff contention, they are unbeaten in a season-high three straight (2-0-1).
Jaromir Jagr scored with less than a second remaining in regulation Wednesday, lifting Washington to a 3-3 tie with visiting Calgary.
Extending their longest unbeaten streak of the season won’t be easy for the Capitals, who could be without centers Robert Lang and Kip Miller. Lang, second in the NHL with 50 points, and Miller, the team’s sixth-leading scorer, both have the flu.
Washington has been outscored 13-5 during a five-game winless streak (0-4-1) against New Jersey.
STANDINGS (through Jan. 15): Capitals - 32 points, 5th place, 17 PB, Southeast Division. Devils - 53 points, 2nd place, 2 PB, Atlantic Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Capitals - Lang, 22 goals and 50 points; Sergei Gonchar, 35 assists; Jason Doig, 62 PIM. Devils - Patrik Elias, 13 goals and 33 points; Elias and Scott Gomez, 20 assists; Colin White, 48 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 15): Capitals - Power play: 20.7 percent (39 for 188), 5th in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.1 percent (167 for 201), 20th. Devils - Power play: 15.6 percent (26 for 167), 12th. Penalty killing: 87.8 percent (129 for 147), 1st.
SEASON SERIES: Devils, 1-0-1.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 1; 2-2 tie. At Washington, Joel Kwiatkowski scored a power-play goal at 4:01 of the third period and Kolzig made 34 saves, helping the Capitals earn a point.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Capitals - 6-15-2-0 on the road; Devils - 10-7-3-1 at home.