Rangers vs. Capitals: Keys to the Game

It's amazing to me that we are almost two months into the season and today will be the very first time the Rangers and Capitals square off this year. The last time these two met was back in April at the Verizon Center for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, which the Rangers lost to be eliminated from the playoffs. Having played each other twice in the playoffs over the past three years, New York and Washington have developed somewhat of a rivalry between each other, s0 this afternoon's match will have a little added emotion to it than the last two the Rangers have played in. 

Better Effort: Maybe that added emotion is what the Blueshirts need, because they struggled to "get up" for their previous two games against the Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers, both of which they lost. They were outskated, outshot - they were pretty much beaten in every aspect of the game. The coach has made it very clear to his team that their effort against the Habs and Cats was unacceptable and that a lot more will be needed out of everyone today versus the Capitals. 

Offense Starts with Defense: Brad Richards made a good point when talking about the Rangers' transition game yesterday, as he said the lack of puck possession and offense starts with the defense. In other words, the Rangers have been chasing the puck around too much in their own zone, are unable to obtain control, and if they do, they have no choice but to dump it out, defeating any hope of breaking out. It's crucial that the Rangers keep the Caps to the outside today and force them into taking low percentage shots, or better yet, turnovers. 

This, in turn, would enable the offense to create more odd-man rushes and scoring chances on the fly, which is where the Rangers have been most successful this season. Just look at Derek Stepan's goal against Florida; McDonagh made the defensive play, Gaborik carried in, and Stepan ended up scoring as the trailer. It all started in the D zone and quickly transitioned into a scoring chance. The Rangers need to do more of that today. 

More pregame info after the jump....

Hank Loves Playing the Caps: Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start in goal after a marvelous 36-save performance against the Panthers on Wednesday night, but let's hope he is given a little more support in this one than he was the other day. Hank always seems to bring out the very best in him against the Caps. 

Rangers pregame notes below.....

Today's Game



The Rangers begin a back-to-back set when they face-off against the Washington Capitals today at Verizon Center (4:00 p.m.), to close out their four-game road trip. The Blueshirts currently rank third in the Atlantic Division standings, and eighth in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 10-5-3 (23 pts). The Rangers enter today's contest having been defeated by the Florida Panthers, 2-1, on Wednesday at BankAtlantic Center. The Capitals enter the contest with a 12-7-1 (25 pts) record to rank sixth in the Eastern Conference, and have won their last two games. Following today's contest, the Rangers will face-off against the Philadelphia Flyers tomorrow at Madison Square Garden (2:00 p.m.), in their third game in four days.

Tune In Today!

Today's game will be televised on MSG Network, with pregame coverage beginning at 7 p.m. You can also catch the radio broadcast on 1050 ESPN Radio and on satellite radio at XM 214.

All Time -- Rangers vs. Capitals

Overall: 83-83-18-5
At MSG: 46-36-9-2
At Washington: 37-47-9-3

2010-11 Review -- Rangers vs. Washington
Nov. 9 Rangers 3, Capitals 5 at MSG
Dec. 12 Rangers 7, Capitals 0 at MSG
Jan. 24 Rangers 2, Capitals 1 (SO) at Washington
Feb. 25 Rangers 6, Capitals 0 at Washington

2011-12 Rangers vs. Washington
Nov. 23 Rangers vs. Capitals at Washington
Dec. 28 Rangers vs. Capitals at Washington
Feb. 12 Rangers vs. Capitals at MSG
April 7 Rangers vs. Capitals at MSG

Upcoming Regular-Season Schedule
Nov. 25 Rangers at Washington, 4 p.m.
Nov. 26 Rangers vs. Philadelphia, 2 p.m.
Nov. 29 Rangers vs. Pittsburgh, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 1 Rangers vs. Carolina, 7 p.m.
Dec. 3 Rangers at Tampa Bay, 7 p.m.

Injuries

Marc Staal has missed 18 games after being put on the Injured Reserve list on Oct. 5 due to a concussion.

Mike Rupp has missed 11 games due to a knee injury, suffered on Oct. 24.

Wojtek Wolski has missed seven games due to a groin injury, suffered on Nov. 3.

* The Rangers have lost 45 total man-game to injuries or illness this season.
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