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Posted On Monday, 05.07.2012 / 1:23 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Ovechkin expecting another 'warm' welcome at MSG

NEW YORK -- Alex Ovechkin expects to again be the target of another unfriendly embrace from the Madison Square Garden fans in Game 5 Monday.

"Yeah, I can't wait," Ovechkin said while flashing is famous gap-tooth smile Monday morning.

Taking a page out of the Ottawa playbook, where the fans at Scotiabank Place count down from 11:11 every period before chanting in favor of captain Daniel Alfredsson, the folks at MSG have taken to counting down from the 8:08 every period before chanting something that isn't all that kind to Ovechkin.

It includes his nickname, Ovi, but you can pretty much guess what the following word is.

Ovechkin doesn't mind it at all.

"I want to laugh, but I can't," he said.

Ovechkin looks at it as a sign of respect.

"It's always nice to hear from the fans, if they're booing you or cheering you," he said. "You're still out there and you still get some respect."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Monday, 05.07.2012 / 12:52 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Projected Game 5 lineup for Rangers

NEW YORK -- There was some positive news on the injury front for the New York Rangers on Monday morning at Madison Square Garden, as forward Mats Zuccarello skated for the first time since breaking his wrist March 23.

The forward took shots and participated in the team's morning skate in preparation for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Washington Capitals. The series is tied 2-2, but coach John Tortorella doesn't believe Zuccarello will be back in the lineup any time soon.

Forward Brandon Dubinsky (lower body) also didn't participate in practice and hasn't played since Game 7 against the Ottawa Senators in the first round.

Here's the expected lineup for the Rangers, who shuffled their lines a lot toward the end of Game 4, so consider this an educated guess.

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
Artem Anisimov - Brian Boyle - Ruslan Fedotenko
Mike Rupp - John Mitchell - Brandon Prust

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel

Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: DaveLozo
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Posted On Monday, 05.07.2012 / 11:42 AM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Projected Game 5 lineup for Capitals

NEW YORK -- Judging by their morning skate at Madison Square Garden, the Washington Capitals will likely use the same line for Game 5 as they did for their 3-2 win in Game 4.

Here are their lines, D pairings and goaltending depth:

Alex Ovechkin - Brooks Laich - Marcus Johansson
Jason Chimera - Nicklas Backstrom - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Troy Brouwer
Mike Knuble - Keith Aucoin - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
Jeff Schultz - Dennis Wideman

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 3:49 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Hagelin still searching for elusive first goal

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Carl Hagelin and John Tortorella are on the same page when it comes to how the young Swedish forward has been playing.

Both say he's been good.

"Yeah, he's been on pucks," Tortorella said.

"Yeah, I feel like I'm playing good," Hagelin told NHL.com. "I've been on pucks, created chances. I'm doing a good job winning battles in the corner and trying to find guys in the slot."

All that's missing is a tangible result.

Hagelin had an assist in Game 1 against Ottawa, but he's pointless with a minus-2 rating and nine shots on goal in the seven games he's played since. Hagelin missed three games in the Ottawa series due to a suspension.

"You hope he scores a goal. You hope he makes a good pass to help score a goal," Tortorella said. "I don't think that's happened, but as far as his forechecking and creating puck possession for us, he's done a good job of that."

Hagelin, of course, would love to chip in offensively. He is, after all, a top-six forward who has played mostly on a line with Brad Richards and sometimes Marian Gaborik for a reason.

The Rangers could also use some production out of him considering they're not getting enough of it elsewhere. They have only nine goals in four games against the Capitals and of the eight teams still playing in the playoffs they're dead last with 2.09 goals per game.

"We haven't scored that many goals in general, but that's the way we play," Hagelin said. "We want to make sure we play well defensively. I feel strong and I feel I'm in condition. It's just that getting that goal would be nice.

"My mindset is to always keep working hard and good things will happen, so hopefully I get one here soon. If not, the most important thing is that we win games."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 3:10 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Caps doing their best to block shots

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals beat the New York Rangers at their own game Saturday, blocking 26 New York shots, while having just seven of their own blocked by the Rangers.

The Caps beat the Rangers 3-2 to even their Eastern Conference Semifinal series at two games apiece. Game 5 is Monday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC).

"We know that they can block shots very well and they create offense from blocking it too," Caps coach Dale Hunter said Sunday. "When we get it blocked, they go down the other way on an odd-man rush. So we say that you just have to miss the first guy and get it by them, and if you miss the net so be it as long as it doesn't get blocked."

In Game 4 the Caps kept the Rangers from getting in the shooting lanes by creating space in the offensive zone with plenty of puck movement. Specifically, the Capitals looked to their blue liners.

"They like to play tight in their D-zone," Troy Brouwer said, "their forwards collapse a little bit and so our D-men have a little bit more time at the points. So if we can get pucks back to the point and go D-to-D and stretch them out a little bit, it gives our D-men a better lane to the net. If we have nothing, we can just throw it down behind the net and try to get a little more room on the cycle."

The Capitals acknowledge that they have relied on their cycle game and their play below the goal line more against the Rangers than they did in the first round against the Boston Bruins.

Washington's first two goals in Saturday's Game 4 win -- tallies from Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom -- both came from sustained offensive zone pressure that resulted in the Rangers collapsing down low.

Ovechkin opened the scoring seconds after Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson battled for possession in the corner with Ryan Callahan and Chris Kreider. Kreider eventually turned the puck over to Ovechkin who made it 1-0 Washington. 

"Callahan was in the corner, Kreider was right down in the pile, both D-men were in the pile, and I think that [Brian] Boyle was the lone guy in the slot," Brouwer said. "That leaves a lot of room in the slot. So it was a timely turnover that the guys caused and Ovi just happened to be in a good spot."

While the Caps' combination of puck movement from their defensemen and the play of their forwards below the faceoff circles kept the Rangers from blocking more than seven shots, the Capitals themselves also got in the way of 26 shots from New York.

Jeff Schultz led the Caps with nine blocked shots, as Washington passed New York for the overall team lead in blocked shots this post-season (244-232).
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Posted On Sunday, 05.06.2012 / 3:05 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Hunter sticking with same lineup for Game 5

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Not looking to change a winning formula, Washington Capitals coach Dale Hunter is expected to go with the same lineup in Game 5 against the New York Rangers that produced Saturday's 3-2 win.

The Eastern Conference Semifinal series is even at two games apiece with Game 5 Monday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m., ET, NBCSN, CBC).

When the series returned to Washington for Game 3 last Wednesday, Hunter had Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom skate on the same line for the first time this postseason. While Hunter was satisfied with their production, the experiment was short-lived.

In Game 4, Brooks Laich returned to Hunter's No.1 line alongside Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson, while Backstrom was back on the second line with Jason Chimera and Alexander Semin. The trios are expected to stay the same for Game 5.

"Brooksie and Ovi have been working pretty well together," Hunter explained. "I put Nicky there and they had some good scoring chances, but I thought that Nicky, [Chimera] and Semin, three games ago had a good game so I thought I'd go back to them."

Both lines came through offensively in Game 4 as sustained pressure from Laich and Johansson led to Ovechkin's fourth goal of the playoffs, while Chimera found Backstrom open in the slot in the second period for his second goal of the postseason. Backstrom's tally snapped a personal seven-game goalless drought.

"Playing with [Backstrom], it felt like he was back to his old self, cycling the puck down low and getting some chances," Chimera said. "With any luck, he could have had three or four goals [Saturday]. I think that was his best game since returning [from a 40-game absence March 31]. He needs that. He needs some confidence. That's a game that could spur us on and ultimately help us out, too."

While Backstrom continues to find his game, his countryman Marcus Johansson remains on the Capitals' No.1 line despite a six-game pointless streak. Johansson is also last among Washington forwards with a minus-five rating in 11 playoff games.
Below are the Capitals lines from Sunday's practice prior to the team's flight to New York.

CAPITALS

Alex OvechkinBrooks LaichMarcus Johansson
Jason ChimeraNicklas BackstromAlexander Semin
Matt HendricksJay BeagleTroy Brouwer
Mike Knuble- Keith AucoinJoel Ward
Mathieu PerreaultJeff HalpernMattias Sjogren

Karl AlznerJohn Carlson
Roman HamrlikMike Green
Jeff SchultzDennis Wideman
John ErskineDmitry Orlov

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth
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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 1:22 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Rangers lines at Friday's practice

WASHINGTON -- The Rangers had a different look to their lines in their first practice Friday since winning in triple overtime in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Capitals.

The Rangers hold a 2-1 best-of-seven series which will continue Saturday afternoon at Verizon Center in preparation for Game 4 (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC). This is what coach John Tortorella showed at their final practice before Game 4:

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik
Artem Anisimov - Derek Stepan - Chris Kreider
Ruslan Fedotenko - Brian Boyle - Ryan Callahan
Mike Rupp - John Mitchell - Brandon Prust

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
Michael Del Zotto - Stu Bickel

Henrk Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 1:16 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Caps back at practice knowing season not over yet

Despite what Brooks Laich thought when he woke up Thursday morning, the Capitals are still alive in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I woke up and for some reason I thought the season was over. I had a deep sleep, a long, deep sleep," Laich told reporters after practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. "I woke up and thought the season was over. And it refreshed in my mind: we only lost one hockey game and it's two to one [in the series]. We're still in a good position."

The Capitals returned for a full practice Friday, two days after losing 2-1 in triple overtime to the Rangers in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series. Despite losing a marathon game on home ice, the wind isn't out of the players' sails. They know they were in this position in the first round against the Boston Bruins and rallied to win the series in seven games.

"We're in the same position we were in, in round one," Laich told reporters. "Somebody's going to win that hockey game and somebody's going to lose. Unfortunately we didn't win it; all it's going to do is motivate us more to win Game 4."

Coach Dale Hunter didn't have any changes in his lineup at practice from what he used in Game 3. Here's what the lines looked like Friday:

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Marcus Johansson
Jason Chimera - Brooks Laich - Alexander Semin
Matt Hendricks - Jay Beagle - Troy Brouwer
Mike Knuble - Keith Aucoin - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Roman Hamrlik - Mike Green
Jeff Schultz - Dennis Wideman

Braden Holtby
Michal Neuvirth

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 1:02 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Mitchell relieved to finally get some pucks on net

WASHINGTON -- While most people were focused on the eight-game goal drought of Marian Gaborik heading into Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Rangers and Capitals, there was another flying under the radar.

In eight games, Rangers fourth-line forward John Mitchell not only had zero goals, but he had zero shots on goal.

Gaborik ended his slump by scoring in the third overtime, and Mitchell snapped out of his funk with five shots on goal. Based on their reactions, it's almost as if Mitchell felt the biggest relief from getting off the schneid.

"After probably Game 4 in Ottawa, I was like, 'Hey, I've got no shots,'" Mitchell said. "Then before you know it, another four games go by and I can't get a shot on net. It was nice. It was almost like a weight came off my shoulders when I got I shot on net. I was like, 'Oh, finally.' I was even thinking to myself, 'Maybe my first shot will go in.' It was kind of wearing on my mind."

Mitchell went into the overtime with the belief there are no bad shots at that stage of the game. He put one on net from long range during the second overtime, but it was a difficult save for Caps goaltender Braden Holtby.

"Yeah, you never know," Mitchell said. "I had a really good opportunity to put the puck on net and it hit his shoulder. I'm just going to try to keep firing. That seems to be the theme in overtime or just in playoffs in general. Throwing the puck at the net, it seems like shots could be going right along the ice and it finds its way in. Throwing the puck at the net is never a bad idea in any period."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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Posted On Friday, 05.04.2012 / 12:50 PM

By Dave Lozo -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Rangers vs. Capitals series blog

Rangers pay visit to Arlington National Cemetery

WASHINGTON -- After a triple-overtime marathon Wednesday night, no one would be upset if members of the New York Rangers simply drew the shades in their hotel rooms, put a do not disturb sign on the door and slept into the early afternoon Thursday.

It was certainly a day of rest for most of the team, but forward Brian Boyle and about a dozen players and staff members spent part of their day at Arlington National Cemetery, a 624-acre military cemetery in the nation's capital. About 14,000 servicemen and women have been laid to rest there, and the cemetery conducts about 30 funeral services per day.

Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh were also part of the group.

"We're worried about winning and losing," Boyle said. "We put our heart and soul into it with everything we have. It means a lot to us, but it puts things in perspective when you see all those gravestones as far as you can see, all the lives that have been laid down for us to be doing what we're doing right now.

"We're pretty fortunate to get that opportunity. It's tough to describe. There's not a lot of words said while we're at the cemetery. Just taking it all in, and we really didn't know what to say to each other. It was impressive, for sure."

Coach John Tortorella said he has changed the way he uses his words in the locker room out of respect for members of the armed forces.

"I don't even like comparing what we do, and we shouldn't compare what we do," Tortorella said. "I've even tried to change my language in the locker room because I think it's wrong. I don't like talking much about anything outside the game, but that's a whole different realm. They cast a shadow over us. We're playing a sport because they allow us to. I don't even like comparing to what we do on the ice what some of those men and women have gone through."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

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I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic