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Capitals-Rangers Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: Washington Capitals (22-35-7) at New York Rangers (36-19-10).

TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST.

After being one of the league's surprise teams this season, the New York Rangers have hit a wall.

New York will try to avoid stretching their season-high losing streak to seven games as it meets rookie star Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden.

New York's six-game slide is its longest since an eight-game skid from March 12-25, 2004. The Rangers have not made the postseason since losing in the Eastern Conference finals in 1996-97.

League goal-scoring leader Jaromir Jagr knows this game, the first of four straight at home, including a key matchup Wednesday against Philadelphia, could be the key to their season.

"It's not a good situation that we are in," Jagr said. "Everybody knows how important these next four games are at home. It might be our season.

"That's the way I look at it. I thought we started playing better in the last two games. It's just that the results are not there."

The Rangers will need Jagr to regain his form and shake off hip and groin injuries suffered at last month's Olympics. Jagr has scored two goals and added one assist during the losing streak in which New York has been outscored 16-9.

The five-time Art Ross Trophy winner is one point behind San Jose's Joe Thornton for the league lead. Jagr also is six points shy of becoming the first Ranger to reach 100 since Mark Messier (107) and Brian Leetch (102) did it during the 1991-92 season.

The Rangers returned home after a 5-3 loss Tuesday to the Eastern Conference-leading Carolina Hurricanes. Michael Nylander ended a five-game point-scoring drought with two goals.

Ovechkin, the leading candidate for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year with 43 goals, trails Jagr by one goal for the league lead.

The Capitals lost their fourth in a row after falling 6-4 on Tuesday to Buffalo despite a goal and two assists from Ovechkin.

Ovechkin needs 18 points in the final 18 games to become the first rookie with 100 points since 1992-93, when Teemu Selanne had 132 for the Winnipeg Jets and Joe Juneau had 102 for the Boston Bruins.

Ovechkin tied career-high for points in a game with a goal and three assists Dec. 3 in a 5-1 win over New York.

STANDINGS: Capitals - 51 points, 5th place, 44 PB, Southeast Division. Rangers - 82 points, 1st place, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Capitals - Ovechkin, 43 goals, 39 assists and 82 points; Chris Clark, 86 PIM. Rangers - Jagr, 44 goals, 50 assists and 94 points; Darius Kasparaitis, 91 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Capitals - Power play: 14.7 percent (57 for 387), 27th in NHL. Penalty killing: 78.6 percent (345 for 439), 28th. Rangers - Power play: 17.8 percent (64 for 360), 14th. Penalty killing: 85.2 percent (334 for 392), 5th.

GOALTENDERS: Capitals - Olaf Kolzig (17-24-7, 0 SO, 3.54 GAA); Brent Johnson (5-10-0, 0, 4.09). Rangers - Henrik Lundqvist (25-9-8, 2, 2.07); Kevin Weekes (11-10-2, 0, 2.90).

SEASON SERIES: Capitals, 2-1.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 3; Capitals, 5-1. At Washington, Ovechkin scored a goal and added three assists to give the Caps a 4-0 second-period lead. Rookie Petr Prucha scored a power-play goal for New York.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Capitals - 7-19-2 on the road; Rangers - 19-7-6 at home.

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