NEW YORK -- There's no secret what the Washington Capitals need to do from the outset in Game 1 against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Second Round series at Madison Square Garden on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
The players realize one of the biggest challenges they face against the Rangers is devising a strategy to neutralize or slow their speed through the neutral zone.
However, that's easier said than done.
"There's no secret they have guys who can skate so we have to make sure we're getting in on the forecheck and clogging it up," Capitals forward Tom Wilson said. "We need to stop them as quick as possible. We need clean exits out of our end and hopefully can limit their speed. We also need to play that heavy game. It's going to be a great series."
The Capitals and Rangers will play for the fifth time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2009; three of the previous four series required the maximum seven games. Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik is looking forward to opening the series against the Rangers, a team he faced in the playoffs many times throughout his career.
"The Garden has always been my favorite building to play in," Orpik said. "Just the atmosphere; it's just one of those buildings that's always cool to play in and that hasn't changed for me."
Orpik knows he and his defense partners will have their hands full against the Rangers, who finished third in the League during the regular season with an average of 3.02 goals per game, and were sixth with an average of 31.5 shots per game average.
"I think [Carl] Hagelin and [Chris] Kreider jump out as probably their top speed guys," Orpik said. "I think from video we have watched it's more the way they play than the individual speed. If you turn the puck over, the transition from their defense to the forwards with those stretch passes is good. It forces teams to play fast so that'll be really important. We need to manage the puck well so they don't hit us with that transition speed."
But Capitals coach Barry Trotz didn't seem all that concerned with the Rangers' speed game.
"We have good speed ourselves, good intensity," Trotz said. "It's playoff hockey so you play to your identity. If you play the way you have played all season everyone has a part. I think we play the Washington Capital way. And if we do that than everyone is involved."
The Rangers, who won three of four games against the Capitals during the regular season, have not played since Friday, when Hagelin scored in overtime to eliminate the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games. They held Penguins center Evgeni Malkin without a point in that series because of the strong play of top defense pair Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi.
"They are good defensemen and hard to score against," Trotz said of McDonagh and Girardi. "They are a top pair in the NHL; they're a great stopper pair. But they also add offense. You look at the great tandems around the League with [Brent] Seabrook and [Duncan] Keith in Chicago and I think McDonagh and Girardi are very similar. They're a good weapon offensively and defensively, and they're one of the better pair in the NHL."
The last time Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist played against Capitals goalie Braden Holtby in a playoff series was 2013. They also faced each other in 2012 and Lundqvist won both series. Lundqvist last lost to the Capitals in the 2011 playoffs when Michal Neuvirth allowed eight goals in five games.
Here are the projected lineups:
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Joel Ward
Marcus Johansson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Jason Chimera
Andre Burakovsky - Jay Beagle - Troy Brouwer
Curtis Glencross - Brooks Laich - Tom Wilson
Brooks Orpik - John Carlson
Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen
Tim Gleason - Mike Green
Scratched: Michael Latta, Dmitry Orlov
Injured: Eric Fehr (upper body)
Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Martin St. Louis
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - J.T. Miller
Carl Hagelin - Kevin Hayes - Jesper Fast
James Sheppard - Dominic Moore - Tanner Glass
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Dan Boyle
Keith Yandle - Kevin Klein
Scratched: Matt Hunwick, Chris Summers
Injured: Mats Zuccarello (upper body)
Status report: Fehr skated on his own after the Capitals' morning skate at Madison Square Garden on Thursday. Trotz said Fehr may skate with the team at practice Friday. Fehr has missed the past four games and is listed day-to-day. … The Capitals' top power-play unit included Ovechkin, Backstrom, Brouwer, Johansson and Carlson. The second unit was Kuznetsov, Ward, Burakovsky, Green and Niskanen.
Who's hot: Holtby ranks third among playoff goalies with a 1.63 goals-against average and second with a .943 save percentage through seven playoff games.