Rangers @ Capitals
Verizon Center, 7:00 p.m. Friday
Rangers’ record: 32-26-4
Capitals’ record: 32-19-10
The Rangers and the Capitals will complete the season series on Friday night in D.C. They have quite a bit in common.
The up-and-down teams will both be fighting for the two points to stay relevant, swing the pendulum to the positive end and distance themselves from the playoff picture “wannabes.” Both teams have had a snake-bitten offense to contend with this season with the Rangers ranked 20th and the Capitals 19th in the league average goals scored per game. They also share an unwelcome bond with the pesky injury bug.
Marian Gaborik’s status is still not clear after it was announced he suffered a concussion in an earlier game and would meet with a specialist. There’s no timetable for his return.
Marc Staal might not be dressed tomorrow night either after a twisted knee injury. Good news for Alex Ovechkin. The all-star defenseman charged with shutting down the star sniper missed practice but traveled with the team.
Ruslan Fedotenko could return after separating his shoulder last month and undergoing an appendectomy. The team could use the extra grit, energy and shot blocking back in the lineup.
Capitals’ big guns Nicklas Backstrom (thumb) and Mike Green (head) are expected to return to the lineup for Friday night’s match according to the Washington Post.
The Rangers need to take advantage of the Caps shaky ways at home and find a way to take a commanding lead...and hold on to it. The Caps are 4-3-3 in their last ten home games and are 4-16-4 when trailing after the second period. They’re coming off of a five game road trip.
The Blueshirts are 3-2 in their last five after kicking off February with a five game losing streak. They’ve struggled with one goal leads and deficits this season. They let the Carolina Hurricanes – who sit just below them in the Conference standings – get away with a point in the 4-3 shootout win on Tuesday where they held the lead.
Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Ryan Callahan will be the keys to victory. The linemates were the strongest in the injury ridden fall and will be heavily leaned upon once again in the spring playoff push. Dubinsky leads the team with 43 points. Callahan has been generating offense of late with six points in his last five games.
Backstopped by Martin Biron, the Rangers defeated the Caps 2-1 in a shootout on January 24 the last time the two teams met.
Michal Neuvirth is expected to get the nod in goal for the Caps while Henrik Lundqvist could get his sixth straight start for the Rangers.