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Caps shoot for 12 straight at MSG

by Dan Rosen
CAPITALS (38-12-6) at RANGERS (25-25-7)

Last 10: Washington 10-0-0; New York 3-7-0.

Season Series: This is the third of four meetings between the clubs this season. The Capitals won at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 17 and the Rangers won at Verizon Center on Oct. 8.

Big Story: The Capitals are looking to extend their franchise-record winning streak to 12 games. No team since the work stoppage has won more than 11 in a row. Washington is not only the hottest team in the NHL, but it is also the best right now. With 82 points, the Capitals lead the San Jose Sharks by one in the Presidents' Trophy race. Newest Rangers Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust will be making their home debuts at MSG.

Team Scope:

Capitals: Not much to complain about in Caps' land right now. They have won 11 straight games and are simply dominating their opponents. They have scored 51 goals during the streak, but have allowed only 22. Jose Theodore has been the main difference in two of the wins (Detroit and Boston). Alexander Semin has points in 10 straight games (6-11-17). It's the longest streak by any one Washington player this season, and that includes Alex Ovechkin. The Caps' top line of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Knuble has accounted for 14 goals and 20 assists during the streak. Amazingly, that leaves 37 goals spread between the other three lines. So, yeah, the Caps are getting contributions from everyone. It's been quite a show to watch.

"Everybody is pretty proud of it," Knuble said of the streak. "It's something to talk about. We know it's not going to last forever, but it's a great thing to be a part of."

Rangers: Just as the Capitals are scoring at an impressive clip, well, the Rangers are not. They are tied for 27th in the NHL with 2.49 goals per game. That's 1.33 less than the Capitals are scoring per game. Jokinen was brought in to center the top line with wingers Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal. It'll be interesting to see how he fares in that role after struggling for most of the season in Calgary. He'll want to get off to a good start in front of the Garden crowd or they can turn on him quickly. Henrik Lundqvist has a 3.66 goals-against average in his last five games, all losses. New York has won only once in its last seven games, and Chad Johnson was in net. The Rangers also haven't scored a power-play goal in seven straight games.

"We need to be professionals, learn, and get ready to play another game," Rangers coach John Tortorella said.

Who's Hot: Ovechkin has 9 goals and 12 assists during the winning streak. Knuble has 9 goals during the winning streak. Theodore stopped 41 of 42 shots in the Caps' 4-1 win over the Bruins on Tuesday.

Injury Report: The Capitals are still without goalie Semyon Varlamov. The Rangers aren't reporting any major injuries.

Stat Pack: The Capitals are 6-1-1 in the last eight regular-season meetings against the Rangers. They also beat them in a seven-game playoff series last season. Lundqvist is 2-2-2 with a 3.69 GAA in his last six starts against Washington. … Mike Green will sit out the last of his three-game suspension Thursday. He's eligible to return Friday night when the Capitals host Atlanta. … Gaborik has four goals against the Capitals this season.

Puck Drop: "We didn't play really well, but we found a way to win, because they believed we could win," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said after Tuesday's 4-1 win in Boston. "When you're on a winning streak, you find ways, good things happen. When you're losing, you hit crossbars and the other goalie makes incredible saves like Theo did tonight."

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