Game Preview: Rangers @ Capitals

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The Capitals return home for a Saturday night tilt with the Rangers, before they embark on a four-game, 10-day road trip to the northwest. Puck drop for the Rangers game is 7:00PM and you can catch the game on CSN. 

THE MATCH-UP
Saturday’s contest is the first of four meetings between the Metropolitan Division rivals. Last season the Caps were 3-2 against New York. Saturday’s game marks the 211th all-time meeting between the Capitals and the Rangers, marking the second-most games Washington has played against an NHL franchise (Pittsburgh: 214). The Capitals have posted a 98-88-18-6 record all-time against New York.

Highlights from last season’s three wins over the Rangers, in order, included a seven-goal outburst in their second meeting, Ovechkin’s 499th goal, which came in overtime at MSG, and a hat trick by Justin Williams. Williams led the Capitals with nine points in the series last year. Ovechkin’s 499th goal was a true gem.

NEW YORK
The Rangers (2-2-0) opened their season with a 5-3 win over their in-state rival New York Islanders 5-3. They dropped their second game to St. Louis 3-2 before getting a big 7-4 win on home ice over the Western Conference champion Sharks. The Rangers fell to the Red Wings 2-1 in their most recent game on Wednesday night.

This is a much older Rangers team that is also more banged up than we are accustomed to seeing. Oscar Lindberg is still recovering from offseason surgery. Dan Girardi (groin) and Pavel Buchnevich (back) have both missed two consecutive games. Girardi practiced today and Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said he could be available for one of their two games this weekend (they have a home game vs. Arizona on Sunday). Vigneault said that Buchnevich remains day-to-day but that he is “coming along”. He won’t travel to Washington though but he is “making progress”. Practice lines for the Rangers on Thursday:

Chris Kreider leads the Rangers in goals, assists and points with 3, 4, and 7 respectively. Henrik Lundqvist carries a 1-2 record through three games with an .875 save percentage and 2.71 GAA. He will get the start tomorrow night.

WASHINGTON
The Capitals (3-0-1) have won three straight games following their opening night, shootout loss at Pittsburgh and are one of three teams that haven’t suffered a regulation loss. Vancouver (4-0-0) and Montreal (3-0-1) are the other two. Coach Trotz decided to give the team the day off on Friday, following their 4-2 win in South Florida on Thursday night.

Home Ice Advantage – This is the last home game of the month for the Capitals before they begin that west coast road trip. Through two games, goaltenders Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer have combined to allow only one goal, with Grubauer blanking the Avalanche in the most recent home contest on Tuesday night.

More Shots Fired – The Capitals are ranked second in shots per game with 34.5. They have outshot their opponents 138-98 through their first four games and have taken 40 or more SOG in two of them.

Defense wins (championships?) – The Capitals rank first in the NHL in goals against. The Capitals have given up just two even-strength goals through the first 12 periods of the season and four goals total for a 1.25 GA/GP.

SHAVINGS

  • Justin Williams’ goal in the first period last night was his first goal of the season and marked his 250th of his career.
  • Williams’ goal continued the Capitals streak of scoring the first goal in each contest this season. The Caps have been the first team to light the lamp in all four of their games.
  • The Capitals have yet to yield a goal in the third period of play.
  • Alex Ovechkin found the back of the net for the second straight game. His third period goal broke a 2-2 tie and was key in the Capitals 4-2 win. It was his 90th game winning-goal and he now sits just one GWG behind Wayne Gretzky and Mark Recchi for 16th place on the all-time list.
  • Thursday night’s game was the first time this season a different Washington player scored each goal (Williams, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Ovechkin, Marcus Johansson)
  • For Kuznetsov and Johansson, their goals were their first of the season. MoJo’s goal in the third, sealed the game for Washington.
  • Nisky business – Matt Niskanen assisted on two of the Capitals four goals on the night.

GAME LINKS
Game Notes (Caps PR)
Caps Overtake Cats in Third for Third Straight Win (Mike Vogel)
Matt Niskanen vows to get offensive – and he powers Caps to 4-2 win (WaPo)
POSTGAME NOTEBOOK: Caps 4, Panthers 2 (Mike Vogel)
Capitals mild-mannered defensemen Alzner, Niskanen are a duo on and off the ice</ (SI)
From the Other Side: An Interview With a Friend (and a Rangers Fan)

By Michael Marzzacco

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