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Pregame: Rangers Vs. Capitals, The Final Stretch

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One more chapter in the battle for Metropolitan Division supremacy.

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This afternoon's game against the Washington Capitals is the eighth-to-last game of the 2014-15 regular season for the New York Rangers. Today the Blueshirts will be looking to bounce back after Henrik Lundqvist's anxiously awaited return to the lineup was spoiled by Milan Lucic and the Boston Bruins yesterday afternoon. There weren't many positives to take away from yesterday's 4-2 defeat to the Black and Gold other than Rick Nash finally burying his 40th goal and getting a rather sizable monkey off of his back as the playoffs draw near. The best thing the club can do is move forward and focus on the fact that Hank is back and Rick finally broke his longest goal scoring slump of the season. Oh, and of course there was this little bit of news that came out after yesterday's game.


All in all, it was a sloppy effort from the Rangers against a Bruins team that is desperate for points and playing for their postseason lives. The Rangers are going to need a much better effort today against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals who are a great deal more dangerous than the Bruins when it comes to capitalizing (no pun intended) on errs and gaffes of their opponents.

Here is the Caps' projected lineup for today's game (leftwinglock):

Ovechkin - Backstrom - Wilson

Johansson - Kuznetsov - Brouwer

Laich - Fehr - Ward

Glencross - Latta - Chimera

---

Orpik - Carlson

Alzner - Niskanen

Schmidt - Green

The Caps are coming off of a 4-3 defeat yesterday at the hands of the Nashville Predators despite a 2 goal effort from Troy Brouwer who became the Caps' second player to hit the 20 goal mark this season (Ovechkin being the other Cap to hit 20 goals... he has 47). Washington is currently sitting in the first of the two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference with a 3 point lead over the Bruins and a 4 point lead over the surging Ottawa Senators (the Sens have a game in hand over both Boston and Washington). The Capitals and Rangers will be playing twice in this final stretch (including today's contest), so I would expect to see some pretty intense hockey out of these two clubs that have forged a rivalry in recent years because of their postseason battles. The Rangers, like every other playoff-bound team, want to play on home ice as much as possible and they know they have to finish strong in order to earn that advantage. The Capitals simply want to make sure they get a chance to get into the playoffs and make sure to give whoever they meet in the first round as much trouble as possible. Given who they have in their lineup, it is a pretty safe bet that they could be a nightmare match up for whoever they meet in the postseason if they manage to get there.

Alex Ovechkin 47 G, 26 A

Nicklas Backstrom 18 G, 54 A

John Carlson 11 G, 36 A

How do you stop the Capitals? Well, take a look at their two top point producers and it should be pretty obvious; you stop the top line and don't give them power play opportunities. The Blueshirts have surrendered 2 goals to Alex Ovechkin thus far this season, both of which were scored on the power play.  So... staying out of the box would be a pretty good idea. The Rangers have been shorthanded 215 times this season and have had 201 power play opportunities which has been a pretty big story for them this season. It's great that the Rangers aren't often shorthanded (and when they are, they're a top ten team in the league on the kill) but they also at the bottom of the barrel in the league in terms of getting power play chances and that certainly isn't doing a lot to help with the power play making an impact when the Rangers do get to go on the attack in special teams. This afternoon's game will be a big test for the Rangers and their discipline after yesterday's frustrating loss.

Thus far in the season series the Rangers are 2-0-0 against the Caps and have outscored them 7-3 thanks largely to a Nash hat trick and a 3-1 victory earlier this month where Cam Talbot was named the first star of the game for his superlative play.  Will the Caps take their first game in the season series today or will Rick Nash and the Blueshirts bounce back and kick into gear for the home stretch after yesterday's sobering loss to the Bruins? The puck drops at 3:00 PM on NHLN.

UPDATE:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Matt Hunwick (upper-body) out today, D Chris Summers, obtained in Yandle deal, recalled from AHL</p>&mdash; Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) <a href="https://twitter.com/stevezipay/status/582221813566083072">March 29, 2015</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

<script src="http://www.hockeydb.com/em/?text_col=%23000000&linktext_col=%230000ee&linktext_hover_col=%23770000&bg_col=%23f0ecdd&border_col=%23000000&title_bg_col=%23d6cda5&row_bg_col=%23ffffff&row_alt_bg_col=%23f5f2e9&header=1&pid=95350" type="text/javascript"></script>

Don't have much on Summers but here is a piece on him from Five for Howling: "Better Know a Free Agent: Chris Summers"

We will update you on Hunwick's status as soon as we get wind of it.

Let's go Rangers.