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Caps back home to host Rangers

by Corey Masisak /
RANGERS (32-26-4) at CAPITALS (32-29-10)


Last 10
- New York 3-6-1; Washington 5-4-1

Season series
- Washington won the first meeting of the season but New York has claimed the past two, including a 7-0 thrashing at Madison Square Garden and a 2-1 shootout win at Verizon Center on Jan. 24.

Big story - The Capitals are back home after a five-game road trip and both of these teams trying to improve their seeding in the Eastern Conference for the forthcoming playoffs - as well as wondering what new faces might be coming to town between now and the trade deadline on Monday.

Team scope:

- After six straight losses helped teams like Carolina, Atlanta and Buffalo creep closer and put the team's playoff spot in jeopardy, the Rangers have stabilized things by winning three of their last five games to take a three-point lead on the Hurricanes for seventh place in the East. New York collected two critical points against Carolina on Tuesday when Wojtek Wolski scored in the final two minutes of the third period to force overtime and got the lone tally in the shootout foe a 4-3 win.

The Rangers now have seven shootout wins, the most in the Eastern Conference. The points are valuable, but the shootout wins won't help them in the event they finish tied in the standings.

"The guys should feel good because this was a gutsy effort," Rangers coach John Tortorella said to reporters after the win.

Capitals - There are signs of a potential turnaround in Washington and a return to the franchise's consistent winning ways, but that's been said before this season only for another sluggish stretch to follow. The Capitals won 2-1 on Sunday at Buffalo and followed that with a 1-0 win at Pittsburgh on Monday to finish their recent road trip.

They haven't won three in a row since winning the two games leading up to the Winter Classic and beating the Penguins at Heinz Field. Each of the past two times the Capitals have won back-to-back games they have followed with a three-game losing skid. That kind of inconsistency is no way to catch Tampa Bay and claim a fourth consecutive Southeast Division crown.

"It's important points-wise, but it's important mentally to start playing your best hockey of the year," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau told reporters.

Who's hot - Ryan Callahan has 4 goals in the past 6 games for the Rangers. He also has 6 goals and 8 points in the 10 games he's played since returning from a broken hand. … Alex Ovechkin has 9 goals in the past 15 games for the Capitals after scoring only 9 in the previous 35 contests.

Injury report - Rangers star Marian Gaborik remains sidelined by a concussion. New York will also be without forwards Alex Frolov (knee), Chris Drury (knee), Ruslan Fedotenko (shoulder/appendix) and Derek Boogaard (concussion). .. For Washington, star defenseman Mike Green could return from time missed because of getting hit in the head with a puck, but he missed practice Thursday because of illness and is questionable for Friday. Forward Eric Fehr (shoulder) and defenseman Tom Poti (groin) are out.

Stat pack
- Washington goalie Michal Neuvirth sure has enjoyed his time in net against the Atlantic Division this season. He's 6-0-2 with a 1.65 goals against average and .944 save percentage against teams from the Atlantic. Henrik Lundqvist is 5-6-2 against the Southeast Division; his .913 save percentage plus 2.65 goals against average are both his worst against any of the six divisions this season.

Puck drop
- These two teams are eerily similar at this point in the season, even if one has been known more for its offense in the past and one more for its defense and goaltending. The Capitals are scoring 2.67 goals per game while allowing 2.43 while their power-play percentage sits at 16.8 percent and the penalty-killing proficiency is at 85.4 percent. Meanwhile, the Rangers are scoring 2.66 goals per game and allowing 2.47. New York's power play is operating at 16.3 percent and the PK has been successful 83.9 percent of the time. Both teams have 32 wins, but the Capitals have 6 more overtime/shootout losses.

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