CAPITALS (10-4-0) at RANGERS (7-6-1)
TV: VERSUS (HD), TSN2 (HD)
Washington 7-3-0; New York 6-4-0
First of four meetings this season. The Rangers won 4-3 in Washington to begin their 2009-10 series, but the Capitals bounced back to take the next three, including both games at Madison Square Garden. New York's Marian Gaborik
, currently out due to a separated shoulder, led all scorers with 4 goals. Washington's Alex Ovechkin
and Nicklas Backstrom
had 3 goals apiece.
Ovechkin in the Big Apple is always the top storyline when the Capitals make a trip here. In his most recent visit to the Garden, the Great Eight scored twice and added an assist to reach 500 career points -- he became the ninth player in NHL history to reach that plateau in his first five seasons in the League and the only one currently active.
After a hot-and-cold start to the season, particularly on offense, Washington appears to be firing on all cylinders again and has reclaimed its usual spot atop the Southeast Division. The Capitals enter on a four-game winning streak, during which they've averaged five goals per game. They were a bit more limited Sunday against the visiting Flyers, but Mike Green
connected on a power play 29 seconds into overtime for a 3-2 victory. Rookie goalie Braden Holtby
, making his first NHL start, improved to 2-0-0 overall.
"In the first two periods I thought he looked a little nervous," coach Bruce Boudreau said, "but once they started getting some shots in the third period I thought he made a great game-saving save there in that flurry, moving from side to side. So, I think he handled himself overall really well for his first complete game."
It was a battle of backup goaltenders Sunday night at the Garden, and while Martin Biron
gave the Blueshirts every chance to win the game, they couldn't get a puck past Ty Conklin and lost 2-0 to St. Louis, which got an empty-net goal in the closing seconds. Biron kept the game scoreless in the opening period, stopping all 14 shots he faced.
"I felt good out there," he said. "We did not play a bad game, but I thought we were just a half-step slow."
Green has goals in four-straight games for the Capitals and also has 4 assists during a five-game points streak. Ovechkin has 4 goals and 6 assists during a six-game points streak. Alexander Semin
has 4 goals and 3 assists during a four-game points streak. … Brandon Dubinsky
had 5 goals in his past three games before the Rangers were blanked on Sunday.
Washington forward Brooks Laich
is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Goalie Semyon Varlamov (groin) and defenseman Tom Poti
(lower body) are on injured reserve. … Gaborik is joined on injured reserve for the Rangers by forwards Chris Drury (broken finger) and Vinny Prospal (knee surgery).
The only Capitals' team to reach 10 wins faster was the 1991-92 version which did it in 13 games (10-3-0). … The Rangers registered a season-high 40 hits against the Blues, with the trio of Ryan Callahan
, Brandon Prust
and Sean Avery
credited with six each.
While neutralizing Ovechkin will obviously be New York's first order of business, Semin actually leads Washington this season with 9 goals, Green has rediscovered his scoring touch from the blue line after going seven games without a goal to start the season and some of the other secondary scorers are starting to hit their stride. The Blueshirts will need Henrik Lundqvist
to be at his best.