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Capitals want to continue physical game vs. Rangers

by Mike G. Morreale /

NEW YORK -- The Washington Capitals would like nothing more than to continue their hit parade against the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round series at Madison Square Garden on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

In a physically draining first round, the Capitals and New York Islanders combined for 630 hits. Washington, which won the best-of-7 series 4-3, is first among the eight remaining teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 313 hits.

For the Capitals to make life difficult for the quick, agile Rangers forwards, they will have to lower the boom on more than one occasion between the blue lines. Coach Barry Trotz said that Washington needs to play to its identity, and that identity is having a group that is difficult to play against.

"I think we're playing more heavy hockey than in the past, but the Islanders came hard at us, and it was a hard-hitting series," Capitals forward Tom Wilson said. "I'm sure if the Rangers were playing the Islanders, it would have been a hard-hitting series. Each series has a different identity, but that's playoff hockey. Guys are finishing checks and leaving everything on the ice. I'm sure this will be a hard-hitting series.

"The Rangers have some big players over there, so it's not like they're a small, light team. They have speed, but we have some guys who can go up and down the ice too. I'm sure it will be an electric series and lots of good hits."

Wilson's 22 hits are third on the Capitals. Defenseman Brooks Orpik's 41 hits are second in the playoffs.

"That series against the Islanders was probably one of the most physical series I've ever been a part of," Orpik said. "I think anyone would tell you that. It wasn't dirty, but an intense series between two teams that play a similar style. Sometimes you're better off going through that early on."

Orpik, who will be playing in his 100th Stanley Cup Playoff game Thursday, knows the value of a good check to separate the skater from the puck.

"For me it's more about your approach to the game; you can't go looking for the physicality," he said. "It's just part of my game. When you look for it, that's when you get out of position and are taking undisciplined penalties."

The Rangers are privy to the fact the Capitals might try to impede their path to the net by using the body. New York plans to do some hitting too; it had 172 hits in its first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, led by forwards Tanner Glass (19), J.T. Miller (19) and Chris Kreider (18).

"We've been harping on playing whistle to whistle and not get involved with that stuff after the play," Rangers forward Kevin Hayes said. "We have a lot of skilled players on our team, and the knock is everyone wants to come and play us hard and get us off our game. But I think we can play physical as well. We have big guys in our lineup, and it should make for a pretty cool experience."

Capitals forward Jason Chimera had 21 hits in the series against the Islanders. He expects a similar output against the Rangers.

"Guys who don't hit in the regular season, hit in the playoffs," Chimera said. "It gets ramped up and it's a fun time of the year. Everyone wants it bad, and you see guys doing things out of the ordinary that they're not doing in the regular season. Guys are going through the wall for each other. I think it'll be physical. With our physicality, we need to slow them down and keep that mindset."


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