5 NHL Questions: Devils and Capitals fight for crucial divisional points

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Every game in the Metropolitan Division has major playoff implications, and Friday night's between Washington and New Jersey will be no different.

1. Can the Caps end their slide and regaining some footing in the division?

About a month ago it was difficult to picture the Eastern Conference playoffs without Washington. But the Caps are just 8-9-6 since the start of December, and 0-4-2 in their last six. While Washington has taken a step back, the Metropolitan Division regressed, and the Capitals are now 13th in the East, and seventh in the Metro. Luckily for them, they only trail third place Columbus by four points. Their Friday night opponents, the Devils, are also in the thick of that race, a point ahead of Washington.

2. Can Jonas Gustavsson continue his stellar play for Detroit?

Jimmy Howard has been battling injuries all season, but the Red Wings have been able to lean on Gustavsson in his absence. With Howard now sidelined again after re-injuring his left knee, Gustavsson is back in between the pipes. In his first start in Howard's most recent absence, the Wings downed the Blackhawks in a shootout. While Howard is only expected to miss a week after re-aggravating his injury, the Red Wings need to get points whenever they can, as the team is in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time in the last 22 seasons.

3. Can Matt Duchene bust out of his slump?

The Avalanche has been a surprise team in Patrick Roy's first season, thanks in large to Matt Duchene. The 2014 Canadian Olympian leads Colorado in scoring, but has only registered seven points in the Avs last 13 games. While Colorado has still been playing winning hockey, Duchene's production has dipped, and he's looking to get back on track.

4. Will Michael Del Zotto turn things around in Nashville?

Once thought to be a top-flight prospect in the Rangers' system, Del Zotto fell out of grace in New York, and was traded to the Predators for defenseman Kevin Klein earlier this week. In his Nashville debut, Del Zoto played a little over 13 minutes in a Predator win. Del Zotto's upside has also been in his offensive game, an area Nashville is looking for him to pitch in.

5. How will Jordan Eberle respond to trade rumors?

His name has been floated as a possible trade chip over the past week, as the 23-year-old forward is putting up steady numbers for the Oilers. Never short on talent, things haven't been going well for Edmonton, although Eberle is riding a three-game goal streak. Eberle will be difficult to unload, after signing a six year, $36 million extension this offseason.

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