Bradley, Johnson out tonight

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The Caps are going through the morning skate here at The Rock. Bruce Boudreau said goalie Brent Johnson is day-to-day with an unspecified injury and Michal Neuvirth will back up Jose Theodore and become the sixth goalie to dress for a game this season for the Caps.

Matt Bradley will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season. He has four goals and eight points in 51 games, but only one goal in the past 30 contests.

Bruce Boudreau acknowledged that Eric Fehr has played well the past two games and could be the beneficiary of more playing time with Chris Clark out, but continued to stress that Fehr needs to earn it.

“You give guys chances, but it is up to them take it and run with it and not be known as, ‘Oh, I am a good player and I’ve got potential,’” Boudreau said. “I’m hoping Eric seizes this moment and proves like Fleischmann did that he’s a solid NHL player.”

Boudreau made the comparison between Fehr’s situation and New Jersey goalie Scott Clemensen, who has been given a chance to play with Martin Brodeur’s injury and has proven he can play consistently in this league.

Buoyed by Clemensen’s sparkling play and plenty of scoring depth, the Devils are eighth in the league in goal scoring. There is lots of depth, as recent addition Brendan Shanahan has three goals in five games despite being a fourth-line/power-play specialist. Jamie Langenbrunner has two goals in each of the past three games, including the game-winner in each. Maybe the biggest development for the Devils has been Patrick Elias’ return to elite status.

Elias has 22 goas and 56 points — two more goals and one more point than he had all of last season. He hasn’t produced more than 69 points since before the lockout.

“They’re playing a different game than they were three or four years ago,” Boudreau said. “I remember last year, for example, we had them 4-0 in the third period and they were still trapping. You watch their team now — they go, go, go and they work as hard as any team. They still trap when the situation calls for it, but they are way more agressive than they use to be in the offensive zone so the talented guys are able to be talented guys. Brett [Sutter] has done a great job.”

The Devils were in 7th place in the Eastern Conference as recently as Dec. 18 and in 6th place as recently as Jan. 16. But eight straight victories has propelled them into a dogfight with the Caps for second place in the East behind the Boston Bruins.

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