Rangers Vs. Capitals: Keys To The Game

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 26: Marian Gaborek #10 of the New York Rangers celebrates his empty net goal with Artem Anisimov #42 late in the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden on December 26, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

The New York Rangers will look for their sixth consecutive win tonight, when they travel to take on the Washington Capitals. The Capitals aren't playing as well as their talent indicates they should, but that doesn't mean tonight will be an easy game for the Rangers.

Keep Alex Ovechkin Quiet: I don't care that Ovechkin is having an off season, he's still a dangerous player. The Rangers' defensive corps need to know where he and Nicklas Backstrom are at all times and keep them as far to the outside as possible. Both Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh -- who will almost assuredly handle the Capitals' top line -- have done a great job at keeping other team's scorers quiet this season. Tonight will be yet another tough test.

Get Brad Richards Going: Richards has played some great hockey the past few games, but he can't buy a point right now. John Tortorella has elected to use him power against power, and while it's made some space for Marian Gaborik, Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov, it's kept Richards' numbers down. Richards doesn't have a point in his last four games, although he should have had a few assists with some of the passes he's making. So long as he keeps playing solid hockey, I don't mind his lack of production, especially since he -- in a way -- is paving the way for the GAS line to do their damage.

Join me after the jump for more.

NEW YORK RANGERS at WASHINGTON CAPITALS

Wednesday, Dec. 28, 7:30 p.m.
Verizon Center - Washington, D.C.
Rangers: 22-8-4 (48 pts)
Capitals: 17-15-2 (36 pts)


* All information through NHL games on Dec. 27

TOMORROW'S GAME:
The Rangers will face-off against the Washington Capitals tomorrow at Verizon Center (7:30 p.m.), to begin a three-game road trip culminating in the 2012 Bridgestone Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Blueshirts currently rank first in the Atlantic Division standings, and first in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 22-8-4 (48 pts). The Rangers enter the contest having defeated the New York Islanders, 3-0, on Monday at Madison Square Garden to extend their winning streak to five games, and are 7-2-0 in their last nine. The Blueshirts have now registered at least one point in 21 of their last 26 games (19-5-2). The Capitals enter the contest with a 17-15-2 (36 pts) record to rank 11th in the Eastern Conference, and have lost four of their last six games (2-3-1). Following tomorrow's contest, the Rangers will face-off against the Florida Panthers on Friday, Dec. 30, at BankAtlantic Center (7:30 p.m.), in their final game of 2011.

RANGERS PRACTICE SCHEDULE:
Prior to tomorrow's contest, the Rangers' morning skate is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at Verizon Center. Head Coach John Tortorella will be available to the media at 11:45 a.m.
* Schedule and availability subject to change

BROADCAST INFORMATION:
* TV: Versus
7:30 p.m. - Rangers at Capitals
* Radio: 1050 ESPN Radio and newyorkrangers.com
7:00 p.m. - Rangers Pre-Game Show
7:30 p.m. - Rangers at Capitals
Broadcasters: Kenny Albert (Play-By-Play), Dave Maloney (Analyst)

RANGERS vs. CAPITALS:
* All-Time: 84-84-18-5 overall (46-37-9-2 at home; 38-47-9-3 on the road)
* 2011-12: Tonight is the second of four meetings this season, and the second of two on the road. The Rangers are 1-0-0 following a 6-3 win on Nov. 25 at Verizon Center. Ryan Callahan tallied a team-high, three assists/points and Ruslan Fedotenko notched two goals in the contest. Henrik Lundqvist made 18 saves for the win.
* Last Season: New York was 3-1-0 overall, with a 2-0-0 mark on the road. The Rangers out-scored the Capitals, 17-6, in the season series. New York tallied four goals in 13 power play attempts (30.8%), and successfully defended 14 of 15 shorthanded situations (93.3%) in the four games. Brian Boyle led the team in scoring with three goals, four assists and seven points in four games. Henrik Lundqvist posted a record of 2-1-0 with a 1.34 GAA, .955 Sv% and two shutouts in three games, while Martin Biron won his only meeting against the Capitals in the shootout, stopping 22 of 23 shots and two of four shootout attempts.
* The Rangers have won four of their last five games at Verizon Center, having out-scored the Capitals, 18-9, over the span
* New York ranks second with an 11-5-2 (24 pts) record on the road; Washington is tied for 10th with an 11-5-1 (23 pts) mark at home
* The Rangers have posted a 7-1-1 record vs. Southeast Division opponents; the Capitals are 3-4-2 vs. the Atlantic Division
* Henrik Lundqvist has posted a 12-6-2 record with a 2.75 GAA and three shutouts in 20 career regular season contests vs. Washington; Martin Biron is 11-8-1-2 with a 2.50 GAA and one shutout in 22 career regular season games vs. the Capitals
* Brad Richards leads the Rangers with 26 assists and 34 points in 47 career regular season contests vs. Washington; Ruslan Fedotenko has tallied a team-high 12 goals in 49 career regular season games vs. the Capitals
* New York lists one former Capital on their roster: Steve Eminger (2002-03 - 2007-08)
* Washington lists two former Rangers on their roster: Mike Knuble (1998-99 - 1999-00); Tom Poti (2001-02 - 2005-06)

SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Rangers are 12-58 (20.7%) with the man advantage in the last 16 games. The Blueshirts' penalty kill has held their opponent scoreless in seven of their last 10 games (28-32, 87.5% over the span), while tallying four shorthanded goals during the stretch. New York is tied for third in the NHL with five shorthanded goals. The Blueshirts have posted a record of 14-1-2 in games when tallying a power play goal, and are 14-3-2 when holding their opponent scoreless on the power play.
* Power Play: The Rangers did not tally a goal in three power play attempts (4:45) on Monday vs. Long Island. New York ranks 20th overall (21-132, 15.9%) and 27th on the road (7-62, 11.3%). The Rangers are 2-12 (8:51) in five-on-three situations (last – 12/23 vs. PHI), and 0-4 (3:46) when four-on-three (last – 11/3 vs. ANA). Shorthanded goals allowed (3): 12/5 vs. TOR (Steckel); 12/8 vs. TBL (Moore); 12/17 at PHX (Korpikoski).
* Penalty Killing: The Blueshirts held the Islanders scoreless in three shorthanded situations (4:45) on Monday at MSG. New York ranks seventh overall (105-123, 85.4%) and is tied for 12th on the road (58-69, 84.1%). The Rangers are 5-6 (3:26) in three-on-five situations (last – 12/17 at PHX), and 0-1 (1:17) when three-on-four (last – 10/7 at LAK). Shorthanded goals for (5): 10/20 at CGY (Prust); 12/8 vs. TBL (Anisimov); 12/10 at BUF (Hagelin); 12/10 at BUF (Callahan); 12/20 at NJD (Hagelin).
* Four-on-Four: New York did not tally/yield a goal in two four-on-four situations (1:15) on Monday vs. Long Island. The Rangers are plus-three in 36 four-on-four situations (63:36), and even in one three-on-three situation (0:01). Four-on-four goals for (3): 10/18 at VAN (Gaborik); 10/20 at CGY (McDonagh); 10/27 vs. TOR (Girardi). Four-on-four goals allowed (0).

BACK-TO-BACKS
The Rangers completed a sweep of their fifth of 14 back-to-back sets this season with a 4-2 win vs. Philadelphia on Friday at Madison Square Garden. New York has posted a record of 4-0-1 (2-0-0 at home, 2-0-1 on the road) in the first game of the set, and are 4-0-1 (4-0-0 at home, 0-0-1 on the road) in the second game. Since 2009-10, New York is 25-8-3 in the second game of back-to-back sets, with a 13-3-1 mark at MSG and 12-5-2 on the road over the span. Henrik Lundqvist has started on consecutive days 56 times in his career, posting a record of 35-14-7 with a 1.82 GAA, .935 Sv% and six shutouts in the second game. The Rangers next back-to-back set begins Jan. 5 vs. FLA, and ends Jan. 6 at PIT.

2,500 WINS CLUB
The Rangers registered their 2,500th win in franchise history with a 4-1 victory at Buffalo on Dec. 10, becoming the fifth franchise in NHL history to reach the milestone along with Boston, Detroit, Montreal and Toronto.

WORLD JUNIOR UPDATE
Rangers' prospects J.T. Miller (USA) and Peter Ceresnak (Slovakia) are currently competing at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship in Alberta, Canada. Miller notched a power play goal and posted a plus-two rating in the USA's opening game, an 11-3 win vs. Denmark on Monday. Ceresnak registered two shots on goal and a plus-one rating in Slovakia's 3-1 win over Latvia yesterday.

RANGERS LEAGUE RANKINGS:
* 2nd in win% (.706)
* 1st in fewest regulation losses (eight)
* T-4th in wins (22)
* T-2nd in regulation/overtime wins (21)
* 2nd in fewest goals against (69)
* 2nd in GAA (2.03)
* 3rd in hits (909)
* 3rd in +/- rating (plus-29)
* 4th in goal differential (plus-30)

QUICK HITS:
* The Rangers enter the contest with a five-game winning streak, and are 7-2-0 in the last nine contests
* This is the latest the Rangers have been in first place of the Eastern Conference standings since the 1995-96 season, when New York held the top position through games played on Mar. 15, 1996 (game #68). *courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau
* The Blueshirts' 11-3-2 (24 pts) mark at MSG is their best start at home through 16 games since 1995-96 (12-2-2, 26 pts)
* New York has registered a point in 21 of their last 26 games (19-5-2), and has out-scored their opponent, 86-54, during the stretch
* New York is 6-1-1 when leading after the first period and 14-0-2 when leading after the second
* New York leads the NHL with an .846 win% when out-shooting their opponent (11-2-0)
* The Rangers rank second in the NHL when scoring first, posting a 17-1-1 mark (.895 win%) in those contests, and their 17 wins are tied for second in the league

INDIVIDUAL NOTES:
* Henrik Lundqvist has held opponents to two or fewer goals in 17 games this season, and is 13-4-1 with a 1.77 GAA, .941 Sv% and two shutouts in his last 18 games
* Lundqvist ranks third in the NHL in Sv% (.936), is tied for third in GAA (1.95) and fourth in shutouts (three)
* Martin Biron has held opponents to two or fewer goals in six of his eight starts this season, and has posted a 2.00 GAA and .929 Sv% during his current four-game winning streak
* Marian Gaborik enters the contest with a five-game goal/point streak, tallying seven goals, one assist and a plus-eight rating over the span
* Gaborik is tied for first in the NHL with 22 goals
* Michael Del Zotto has tallied 15 points (2 G, 13 A) in the last 15 games
* Del Zotto is tied for second in the NHL with a plus-25 rating
* Stu Bickel has tallied four assists in four games since being recalled on Dec. 18
* Anton Stralman enters the contest with a three-game assist streak (four assists over the span), has posted a plus-nine rating in the last four and has logged 20:00+ of ice time in five of the last six contests

MILESTONES IN SIGHT:
* Artem Anisimov: 2 games from 200th NHL career
* Brandon Dubinsky: 5 points from 200th NHL career
* Marian Gaborik: 1 assist from 300th NHL career
* Dan Girardi: 3 assists from 100th NHL career

MILESTONES RECENTLY ACHIEVED:
* Stu Bickel: 1st career NHL game & 1st career NHL assist/point (12/20 at NJD)

INJURIES:
* Marc Staal (concussion, IR on 10/5) - 34
* Wojtek Wolski (groin, 11/3) - 23
* Michael Sauer (concussion, 12/5) - 10
* Steve Eminger (shoulder, 12/17) - 4
* Jeff Woywitka (ankle, 12/17) - 4
Total Man-Games Lost: 107

RECENT TRANSACTIONS:
* None

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