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Gaborik or not, Rangers set to challenge Capitals @NHLdotcom

RANGERS (29-27-8) at CAPITALS (43-13-8)

Last 10: New York 5-4-1; Washington 7-1-2

Season series: This is the last of four meetings. On Oct. 8, Marian Gaborik snapped a tie with a power play goal mid-way through the third period to give the Rangers a 4-3 road win. He finished with two goals, as did Nicklas Backstrom of the Capitals. … On Nov. 17, Matt Bradley scored the go-ahead goal with less than five minutes in regulation to give the Capitals a 4-2 road win. Again, Gaborik scored twice for the Rangers. … On Feb. 4, Backstrom scored a goal and 4 assists, and Alex Ovechkin added 2 goals and an assist to lead the Capitals to a 6-5 road win. Vaclav Prospal led the Rangers with 2 goals and 2 assists.

Big story:
Will he or won't he? Will Gaborik, the Rangers' leading scorer and the No. 5 goal scorer in the NHL, return to action or miss his fourth straight game? Rangers coach John Tortorella didn't shed any light on the subject before or after New York's last game on Thursday. Gaborik has scored 35 of the Rangers' 167 goals this season. He suffered a lower-body injury, believed to be a groin pull, playing for Slovakia at the Winter Olympics.

Team scope:

Rangers: New York is playing its third game following the Olympic break. The Rangers had a 4-1 victory against Ottawa on Tuesday and a 5-4 overtime loss against Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Despite being outshot 55-16 for the game, the Rangers held a two-goal lead midway through the second period. Pittsburgh eventually tied the game 4-4 and Evgeni Malkin scored a power-play goal in overtime.

Artem Anisimov, Chris Drury, Michal Rozsival and Brandon Dubinsky scored goals for the Rangers, and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made a career-high 50 saves. Rozsival’s first goal in 38 games gave New York a 4-2 lead.

"At the end of the night, we grabbed a point out of here," Tortorella told the New York Times. "Although it was an ugly one, it is a point. We will take that."

Capitals: This is the second game in a five-game homestand. It began with a 5-4 victory against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

Mike Knuble and Scott Walker each scored twice. Walker broke a 4-4 tie by putting in a rebound at 13:09 in the third period. It was his first multi-goal game of the season. In 33 previous games with Carolina, Walker had only 3 goals for the season.

Walker, Joe Corvo and Eric Belanger were making their Washington debuts after being acquired in separate trades on Wednesday. Bradley, John Erskine, and David Steckel were healthy scratches to make room for the additions.

The Capitals have won 12 straight home games.

Who's hot:
For the Rangers, Erik Christensen has 2 goals and 3 assists in three games, Sean Avery has 2 goals and 2 assists in three games, Prospal has 5 goals and 4 assists in seven games, and Ryan Callahan has 4 goals and 2 assists in seven games. … For the Capitals, Alexander Semin has 4 goals and 2 assists in four games, Brooks Laich has 3 goals and 4 assists in five games, Knuble has 10 goals and 6 assists in 12 games, and Mike Green has 3 goals and 8 assists in seven games.

Injury report:
For the Rangers, Gaborik (leg) is day-to-day. … For the Capitals, Erskine (shoulder) and Milan Jurcina (hernia) are day-to-day.

Stat pack:
The Rangers lead the NHL with 1,851 hits. Callahan is second in the League with 246 hits, and Michael Del Zotto is third among all rookies with 130 hits. … Since the start of 2006-07, Lundqvist is sixth in the NHL with 138 wins, trailing Miikka Kiprusoff, Roberto Luongo, Martin Brodeur, Evgeni Nabokov and Ryan Miller. … Ovechkin is the only player in the NHL with 90 points in each season since 2005-06. He reached the mark with an assist on Thursday. … Washington is the only team in the NHL with four players with 60-plus points and five players with 20-plus goals. … The Capitals are 19-2-2 since Ovechkin was named captain Jan. 5 and have scored at least three goals in each of those 23 games.

Puck drop:
"I'm excited to be back and to start playing again. It'll be a tight race until the last game. It's important for us to be ready right away. The last couple of years we've been in the same position and we've been able to play strong games down the stretch. We have to do the same." -- Lundqvist to the Bergen Record

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