Pregame #62: Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers

Washington Capitals (32-19-10) vs. New York Rangers (32-26-4)
Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 PM
TV: Comcast SportsNet Plus (HD) (Game On!), CSN+ Channel Finder
Radio: 820AM, 1500AM and XM
Previous Games:
Nov 9, 2010 NYR@WSH 5-4 W
Dec 12, 2010 WSH@NYR 0-7 L
Jan 24, 2011 WSH@NYR 1-2 SOL
Games Remaining: None
Familiar Faces of Former Capitals:
Steve Eminger (2002-2008)
Former Rangers:
Mike Knuble (1998-2000)
Tom Poti (2002-2006)
The Enemy:
Our Bloguin Partner: The New York Rangers Blog
Sports Haze
Blueshirt Banter

The New York Rangers come to town for a Friday night showdown against the streaking Washington Capitals.  While it may be a stretch to call two games a streak, the Capitals are winning with stout defense, strong goaltending, and an effective powerplay and show no signs of slowing down.  The injury plagued Rangers come to town in 7th place in the Eastern Conference standings trying to maintain their grip on a playoff spot.  In the 14 games since the Rangers’ last meeting with the Caps on January 24, they have gone 3-7-1 and have only scored 25 goals (1.79 goals per game), including 2 shutouts.  Goaltender Henrik Lunqvist will have his work cut out for him trying to keep the Rangers in the game.   Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth, whose last game was a shutout of the Penguins, shouldn’t have too many problems with the Rangers offense. 

Injury Report: The Capitals are expecting D Mike Green (ear) and C Nicklas Backstrom (thumb) to play.  RW Eric Fehr (shoulder) is expected to miss another week or two.  There is no timetable for the return of D Tom Poti (groin).
-Rangers D Marc Staal (knee) is questionable.  The Broadway Blueshirts will be without LW Alex Frolov (knee), RW Marian Gaborik (concussion), LW Derek Boogaard (shoulder), C Chris Drury (knee), and LW Ruslan Fedotenko (shoulder).
Update: Per, Rangers D Marc Staal has been ruled out tonight.  D Ryan McDonaugh will pair with D Dan Girardi to face Alex Ovechkin’s line.  LW Ruslan Fedotenko will return from injury tonight.  F Kris Newbury has been returned to the AHL.

Walker, Texas Ranger

Read on. Chuck Norris is waiting.

What to watch for:

Broadway Special: The Rangers present a good opponent for the Caps to get their penalty kill back on track. The Rangers rank 24th on the man advantage at 16.3% and they are missing key players, like Gaborik, Frolov, and possibly Staal.  The Rangers 8th ranked penalty kill, already missing Drury and Fedotenko, would be weakened further without Marc Staal shadowing Alex Ovechkin.  With the Capitals’ powerplay awaking from its winter hibernation, special teams could carry the day. 

Skaters Great and Small:  Manhattan skyscraper Brian Boyle is leading the Rangers in goals this season with 19 and will be counted on to provide offense for the struggling Rangers.  The 26-year old Boyle stands 6’7, 244 lbs, and has a booming shot.  He likes facing the Caps, as he has scored 2 goals and 5 points in 3 games against the Boys in Red this season.  Another player who will be counted on for offense is miniscule winger Mats Zuccarello-Aasen, who is so small he had to drop the hyphenate from his jersey.  The Norwegian rookie only stands 5′ 7, 160 lbs, but with 15 points in 27 NHL games and a 5-for-7 showing in shootouts, he is showing the skills that won him the Swedish Elite League scoring title last season. 

Rock the Red Square:   There is rampant speculation that the Capitals and Rangers will open next season for a pair of games in Russia, with St. Petersburg and Moscow as possible locations.  While this would be great publicity for the Caps and the Rangers, it has nothing to do with this season.  As an add on to Our Game, every time there is a mention of a possible game in Russia next year, say cheers in Russian “На здоровье” (Noz-drow-veya) and take a drink of your favorite soda.