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Schedule quirk gives Capitals & Devils little taste of playoffs

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The next few days will kind of feel like the playoffs for the Washington Capitals, even though it’s February and Games 16 and 17 of the regular season and even though they’re buried in last place on the Eastern Conference. They have back-to-back home games at Verizon Center against the New Jersey Devils, a scheduling quirk that’s usually reserved for springtime.

It’s the first time the Caps have played consecutive home games against the same opponent since April 2006.

“I haven’t done it before and I’m sure it will be highly competitive,” Caps left wing Wojtek Wolski said.

Good playoff series grow with the hatred of two teams seeing each other a lot in a short period of time. Emotion comes “naturally” in back-to-backs, coach Adam Oates said.

“Something always seems to happen in that first game that carries over to the second game,” Wolski said. “Guys don’t really forget. I know guys that have kept grudges for a full year until you play a team the next time and you still remember what happened. So this being two nights after, I’m sure that it’s going to be highly competitive.”

This time there are two games starting within 41 hours of each other, between teams playing similar, aggressive forechecking styles.

“The way I look at it as it’s going to be a battle, just like our team last year in the playoffs against the Rangers,” defenseman John Carlson said. “It was pretty much two similar teams going to war. And then we got the back-to-back against [the Devils], which makes it a little bit more of a battle, so to speak.”

The Caps do this thing once more this season, when they visit the Winnipeg Jets for back-to-back games in March. That’s like when American Hockey League teams play two games at the Abbotsford Heat because of travel concerns.

“I personally don’t love it like that. I personally like to see different teams,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “I like to have a bit of a change but at the same time it’s good for us and for learning. We get to really test things out against a team that plays the same way as us, so that part is kind of cool.”

Cool, but not quite the playoffs.

“Yeah, almost,” Carlson said. “It’s going to be fun though. We need these points and they’re big games for us. So we need them.”

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