Rangers-Capitals preview

I think I speak for all Caps fans when I say that this game better not go to a shootout. There’s three reasons for that. 1) Three-point games are killer when you’re chasing teams in the standings like these two are right now. 2) The Caps are 2-5 in shootouts this season. 3) The Rangers are 7-2 in shootouts and that’s how they beat us last time with a largely injured forward corps. While players like Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan are back there are two Caps-killers that will be out of the lineup tonight for the Rangers; Marc Staal and Marian Gaborik. Staal has always played Ovechkin’s shadow in the team’s past meetings and Gaborik always seems to get on the scoresheet against Caps no matter who he plays for. Still, a win over the Rags tonight will be a very good leap forward for this Capitals team as they try to reclaim 1st place in the Southeast.

Know your enemy: New York Rangers edition

The Rangers have been battling injuries all season but have seen good play from younger players and are getting goals from unexpected sources which has kept them in the playoff hunt. Brian Boyle’s shocking season has continued as he has 19 goals and the acquisition of Wojtek Wolski has also helped. Rookie Derek Stepan is also quietly having a good season with 16 goals and 34 points. I feel like I haven’t heard many people talk about him this year but he’s definitely been solid. They also play a very responsible game under John Tortorella and that has helped them a lot this year. Having a goalie like Henrik Lundqvist and one of the more underrated 1-2 defensive pairings, in my opinion.

Matchups/Game Notes:

– Michal Neuvirth will be getting the start tonight for Washington and he stopped 25 of 28 shots against New York the last time he played him. He is also coming off a 39 save shut-out. Henrik Lundqvist will be starting for the Rangers and I’m sure Caps fans already know all about him. He’s had some of his best games against Washington along with some less-than-stellar outings.

– The line getting the Carlson-Alzner treatment from New York will probably be Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan. Three young and dangerous forwards that have all done serious damage against Washington in past games. Hopefully these two are ready.

– With Staal out, it will put a lot of pressure on rookie defenseman Ryan McDonagh who I expect to be paired with Dan Girardi for the Rangers. Not having #18 on the ice every time our top line is will be a relief but Girardi is a good defenseman and McDonagh’s definitely going to be looking to prove himself so let’s see what happens. Alex Ovechkin should be able to have a little more room to work with in this game, though.

– Still no Mike Green which means Sloan and Erskine will get another night paired together. Why do I have a feeling that Brian Boyle will score his 20th goal? Ugh.

– Rangers have the 25th ranked powerplay in the league and 5th ranked penalty kill. Caps are 22nd and 5th in those respective departments. Expect another low scoring game.

– Caps have had a different goalie in net every time they played the Rangers this year.

– Having a hard time guessing who will score the first goal in this game considering we’ve had Brandon Prust, Matt Hendricks, John Erskine and Derek Boogaard all score goals in the series this year. I’m going to go out of left field and say that Scott Hannan will score his first goal for the Caps. That’s required he shoots the puck, though which most of our defenseman haven’t done this season.

Line combinations/guesses

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble

Laich-Johansson-Semin

Chimera-Perreault-Bradley

Hendricks-Steckel-Gordon

Alzner-Carlson

Hannan-Schultz

Sloan-Erskine

Rangers

Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan

Wolski-Stepan-Zuccarello

Prospal-Christensen-Avery

Fedotenko-Boyle-Prust

McDonagh-Girardi

Eminger-Sauer

Del Zotto-Gilroy

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