GAME: New York Rangers (26-40-7-8) at Washington Capitals (23-45-10-2).
TIME: Saturday, 3 p.m. EST.
Essentially, the New York Rangers' season concluded weeks ago.
They'll see yet another disappointing season officially end when they take
on the Washington Capitals.
Because the Rangers were not in a position to make the playoffs despite the
league's highest payroll, a trading deadline sell-off stripped the team of most
veterans - including Brian Leetch, who was dealt to Toronto after 17 seasons.
Numerous deals made before the March 9 trade deadline jettisoned most of their
marquee players and helped New York stockpile young players and draft picks.
Rangers owner James Dolan and general manager Glen Sather decided that in
the best interest of the franchise, the Rangers had to trade off their assets
and build for the future. That meant abandoning a desperate run for the
playoffs - and a seventh straight spring with no NHL playoff games at Madison
"It was too much of a risk," Dolan said. "We were better off taking
advantage of the trade deadline and using this time to make a change in the
strategy. I believe that was the right decision."
Without a realistic chance to win a championship in New York and with his
good friend Leetch gone, Mark Messier is leaning toward retirement.
Messier left the ice at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night and was
showered with applause and cheers from teammates, family, friends, fans and
even the Buffalo Sabres. The 4-3 loss was certainly the last game the Rangers
captain will play this season, and possibly the final one of his 25-year NHL
If this is the end, and the 43-year-old Messier was noncommittal Wednesday
night, then he will retire as the NHL's second-leading scorer with 1,887 points
- trailing only Wayne Gretzky.
Washington also cut ties with several high-priced players before the trading
deadline, but its season doesn't end until Sunday at Pittsburgh. The Capitals
unloaded eight well-paid veterans this season.
Olaf Kolzig, one of the few veterans not traded, made 35 saves for
Washington in a 3-3 tie with the Boston Bruins on Thursday night.
The Capitals had lost seven consecutive road games. Washington has the most
losses in the NHL this season, but remains unbeaten (20-0-3) when leading after
"Every game has an impact on something," Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said.
"I told the guys, 'You never know when you'll need a favor from somebody
STANDINGS (through April 1): Rangers - 67 points, 4th place, 33 PB, Atlantic
Division. Capitals - 58 points, 5th place, 48 PB, Southeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Rangers - Jaromir Jagr, 31 goals, 43 assists and 74 points;
Dale Purinton, 117 PIM. Capitals - Jeff Halpern, 17 goals, 25 assists and 42
points; Darcy Verot, 135 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through April 1): Rangers - Power play: 13.9 percent (44 for
317), 27th in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.2 percent (304 for 384), 29th. Capitals
- Power play: 19.5 percent (64 for 329), 6th. Penalty killing: 81.3 percent
(318 for 391), 26th.
GOALTENDERS: Rangers - Mike Dunham (16-30-6, 2 SO, 3.03 GAA); Jamie McLennan
(12-12-3, 4, 2.32). Capitals - Kolzig (19-34-9, 2, 2.89); Sebastien Charpentier
SEASON SERIES: Capitals, 2-1.
LAST MEETING: March 18; Capitals 4-3, OT. At Washington, Kip Miller scored a
power-play goal 1:18 into overtime for the Capitals.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Rangers - 13-19-4-4 on the road; Capitals - 13-20-6-1 at