Playoff Pregame #8: Washington Capitals at New York Rangers

#7 Washington Capitals (42-32-8) at #1 New York Rangers (51-24-7)
Location: Madison Square Garden
Time:
3:00 PM
TV: NBC (HD)
Radio: 1500AM, 820 AM, and XM
Previous Games:
Nov 25, 2011 NYR@WSH, 3-6 L
Dec 28, 2011 NYR@WSH, 4-1 W
Feb 12, 2012 WSH@NYR, 2-3 L
Apr  7, 2012 WSH@NYR, 4-1 W
Next Game:
Apr 30, 2012 WSH@NYR, 7:30 PM
Familiar Faces of Former Capitals: D Steve Eminger (212 GP, 2002-08)
Former Ranger:  Mike Knuble (141 GP, 1998-2000)
Know The Enemy: Our Bloguin Partner: The New York Rangers Blog, Blueshirt Banter

Switcheroo 42? Read on!

NHL
(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

The Washington Capitals face off against the New York Rangers in the playoffs for the third time in four seasons.  This time, though, it’s a second round match-up, and the Rangers have home ice for a change.  The Capitals are coming off a hard-fought 7 game series against the defending champions.  That series really solidified the Capitals’ identity as a hard-working, defensively responsible team.  They out-worked the Bruins in that series and kept their big guns from having much of an impact. 

The New York Rangers are coming off a big 7-game series win of their own, except they were supposed to close out the #8 seed Ottawa Senators much earlier.  The Rangers had issues dealing with the slippery forwards and top defenseman from Canada’s Capital City, and they could very well have similar issues with the Capitals’ cadre of capable catalysts on offense.  The Rangers are also dealing with serious injuries to important players, much like last season, and they have had issues with the Capitals in the past.  This should be an entertaining series to watch.

Injury Report: Capitals’ G Tomas Vokoun (groin) is out. 
-For the Rangers, D Steve Eminger (ankle), RW Mats Zuccarello-Aasen (arm), and D Michael Sauer (concussion) are out.  C Brian Boyle (concussion) and C Brandon Dubinsky (upper body) are day-to-day. 

Three Things To Watch For:

Line Masher:  Expect Capitals head coach Dale Hunter to keep hard-matching lines in this series like he did against Boston.  He’ll also likely keep Brooks Laich with Alexander Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom with Alexander Semin to have scoring balance and defensive responsibility from his two big lines.  Considering both lines were somewhat effective against the Bruins, and the big 3 of Semin, Ovechkin, and Backstrom all scored in bunches against the Rangers this season, it could be an interesting to see who Rangers coach John Tortorella selects to match up against each line.  

Hounding Gabby:  On the other side of the coin, Dale Hunter will almost certainly match up Jay Beagle’s shutdown line with the Rangers top line of Richards and Gaborik.  That line, usually with Matt Hendricks and often with Jason Chimera and Troy Brouwer, worked wonders against the Bruins top lines and even scored a few goals themselves.  Look for that line to get plenty of ice time and to keep the forecheck working tonight in an effort to keep the Rangers’ guns hemmed in their own zone.

Assail the King: “King” Henrik Lundqvist just won his first playoff series in several years, but now he faces the team that knocked him out the past two times.  The Capitals lost to Lundqvist twice in the regular season, but it is interesting to note Lundqvist’s numbers weren’t very good.  It is also interesting to note that Rangers backup goalie, Martin Biron, has won a playoff series against the Caps with the Flyers in 2008.  After two playoff series wins against him and knocking out the reigning playoff MVP last series,the Capitals have no fear of the King and should be a royal pain in his crease today. 

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