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Rangers continue long homestand vs. Capitals

by Mike Battaglino

CAPITALS (15-12-2) at RANGERS (15-14-1)


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

Season series: The New York Rangers shut out the Washington Capitals 2-0 on Oct. 16 in the first game since a 2013 Stanley Cup Playoff series won by the Rangers with shutouts in Games 6 and 7.

"We kind of know what the Rangers are about," Capitals goalie Braden Holtby said Saturday. "We know it's going to be a hard-fought game. It always is. Low-scoring mostly, which we have to be ready for, but at the same time, you've got to expect the unexpected at times."

Big story: Washington will try to stay ahead of New York in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals moved into second place Saturday with a 5-2 win against the Nashville Predators, passing the Rangers, who lost to the New Jersey Devils 4-3 in overtime.

"It has to be a physical game," Capitals forward Eric Fehr said. "It has to be a high-tempo game. I think it's going to be very similar to [the game Saturday], just battles behind the goal lines, some big players on both sides, so we're going to have to try to win those."

Team Scope:

Capitals: Washington has won three of four since losing four in a row (0-3-1). On Saturday, the Capitals scored three first-period goals for the third time this season. They are 10-3-0 when scoring first.

"Lately a lot of the time we've been coming from behind, having to come down from either one or two goals," forward Troy Brouwer said. "You're not going to have a ton of success later on in the season doing that. We were able to squeeze out some points here and there, but you can only win so many games like that."

Coach Adam Oates would not say if Holtby will start or if Philipp Grubauer will make his second of the season.

Rangers: This is the second of a franchise-record and NHL-season-high nine-game homestand for the Rangers, who are 5-6-1 at Madison Square Garden. The long stay at home did not get off to a good start Saturday. They led the Devils 2-0, fell behind 3-2, tied the game in the final 30 seconds of regulation but lost on a power-play goal in overtime.

"I think it's a good thing for us," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said of playing Sunday. "We've got to get ready, recover here, recuperate and get back to playing our systems. We have to start doing it at this point, have to do it for a full 60 minutes, and that has to be our focus here."

The late goal prevented the Rangers from failing to get a point when leading after two periods for the second time since Nov. 29; they had been 95-0-6 prior to that.

"We've got to try to bear down there, and really focus on getting a win in the third period," McDonagh said.

Goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who made 20 saves Saturday, will play back-to-back for the second time this season. Cam Talbot had taken one end in four other situations.

Who's hot: Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has scored nine goals in his past 11 games and his 22 total leads the NHL by two. Forward Mikhail Grabovski has five points in his past four games. Fehr has five points in his past five. … McDonagh and forward Brad Richards each have seven points in a six-game streak; forward Mats Zuccarello has six in four.

Injury report: The Capitals were without forward Brooks Laich (groin) for a fifth straight game. Defensemen John Erskine (upper body) and Jack Hillen (leg), and goaltender Michal Neuvirth (lower body) are out. ... Rangers defenseman Marc Staal (upper body) left in the third period Saturday. Forward Derek Dorsett (wrist) missed his second straight game.

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