Washington finishes off its 11th set of back-to-back games this season on Sunday afternoon against the Rangers in New York. The Caps absorbed a 3-2 shootout loss to the Red Wings in Detroit on Saturday in Washington's first game back in action after the conclusion of its bye week.
"Four or five days off is definitely tough to come back from in the middle of the season and with one practice," says Caps forward Zach Sanford. "But I think getting a game under our belt [on Saturday] was definitely good for us and I think we'll be back to normal legs and stuff [on Sunday]."
After a week of inactivity, the Caps didn't lack for legs on Saturday but their hands definitely showed signs of rust. Passes and shots weren't crisp and often weren't on target early in the game, though that improved as the contest wore on. They'll get right back at it on Sunday in New York, which is probably a good thing.
"From the perspective of when you lose a game," says Caps center Lars Eller, "it's good to have a game [the next day] that you can focus on so you don't dwell on this one. So in that regard, yeah, it's good."
It's Been A While - Washington hasn't seen the Rangers in nearly four months, since New York claimed a 4-2 win over the Caps in the District back on Oct. 22. With an average of 3.37 goals per game this season, the Rangers are just a hair behind the Caps, who are second in the league with an average of 3.39 goals per contest.
While all of Washington's top nine forwards - and one more beyond those nine - have reached the double-digit goal level this season, the Rangers can boast eight double-digit goal getters among their forward corps, and another (Mike Zibanajad) who would almost certainly be at that level if not for an injury that sidelined him for a significant chunk of the season.
New York's speed posed problems for the Caps early in the season, but Washington has been better at handling speed teams of late. The Caps will face a stiff challenge from a rested Rangers team that has won six of its last seven.
Are the Capitals eager to see how they match up with New York at this point of the season?
Video: Trotz talks before #CapsNYR from New York
"A little bit," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "Obviously we're just coming off our break, so we're still trying to build our game up to the [pre-break] level. I would have liked to see us play them before the break to see where we were, because I thought we were playing a very fast game and handling all that very well.
"It will be interesting because this is back-to-backs; we played [Saturday] and have an early game [Sunday]. So recovery time [may be lacking]. It's actually good for us to get back into the mix and we're playing a very good team that's playing very well."
In The Nets - Philipp Grubauer will get the start for Washington on Sunday against the Rangers. He earned his first NHL victory here at Madison Square Garden with a 4-1 triumph over the rangers on Dec. 8, 2013.
Grubauer has won seven of his last nine starts and he has earned at least a point in 10 of his last 12 starts (8-2-2).
Lifetime against the Rangers, Grubauer is 2-1-0 with a 2.25 GAA and a .933 save pct.
At the other end of the ice, Henrik Lundqvist is expected to get the start for the Rangers. He earned the 400th win of his NHL career on Feb. 11 against Colorado. Lifetime against the Capitals during the regular season, Lundqvist is 20-9-4 with four shutouts, a 2.63 GAA and a .907 save pct.
All Lined Up - Without benefit of a morning skate, we won't know how the two sides lineup up until pregame warmups. But here's our best guess as to how we expect the Capitals and Rangers to look when they take to the ice at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon:
8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
90-Johansson, 92-Kuznetsov, 14-Williams
10-Connolly, 20-Eller, 82-Sanford
26-Winnik, 83-Beagle, 43-Wilson
26-Vesey, 21-Stepan, 61-Nash
20-Kreider, 93-Zibanejad, 36-Zuccarello
40-Grabner, 13-Hayes, 10-Miller
89-Buchnevich, 24-Lindberg, 19-Fast