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GAME DAY: Rangers Right Back at it in D.C.

Henrik vs. Holtby as Blueshirts Cap Back-to-Back

by Michael Obernauer

RANGERS at CAPITALS, 7 p.m.
Capital One Arena
MSG Network, 1050 AM

GAME DAY
There may come a time down the long road of an NHL season when the Rangers do not particularly relish the thought of back-to-back games and three in four days. This is not that time.

When David Quinn spoke on Thursday night about "silver linings," one of them simply was that the Rangers get a chance to put one game after another, without a week of down time in between. Their next chance comes Friday night against the Capitals in Washington, completing the Blueshirts' first back-to-back this season.

"We want to play hockey games," the Head Coach said. "It's the only way you can really get better in this league, and it's really the only way to get in shape. When the season gets going, you work hard during games, you're going to get in better shape. No matter what we do in practice to emulate a game, it's just not game-like. So we get to build off of (Thursday)."

What the Rangers want to build off of is a game in New Jersey that Quinn called "the most energetic game we've played, the most physical game," but which still went down as their first road loss this season. Special teams played a big part in that, with the Rangers finishing 0-for-6 on power plays.

Henrik Lundqvist will take the start against the Caps, a night after Alexandar Georgiev stopped 33 New Jersey shots. Since taking the Opening Night start for the Rangers for the 14th year in a row, Lundqvist has had just one start over the last 14 days.

"You try and you try and the best you can to stay sharp in practice, keep that intensity high, and the focus," Lundqvist said, "but you definitely need to get out and play now and get into the rhythm. All of us -- there's so many things you can talk about and work on in practice, but you need to play games to get that feeling in the room the pressure and the focus that you get from playing games."

Lundqvist took the start in both the Rangers' visits to D.C. last season, and both were thrillers, with the Rangers staging third-period comebacks to push the games to overtime and grab a point in each. In the most recent one, on Feb. 24, the Rangers twice came from two goals behind, and Brady Skjei had the first two-goal game of his career, including the game-tying goal with a half-minute left in regulation time.

The other meeting, on Oct. 17, was a battle of power plays, with each team going 2-for-4. The Rangers are coming off an 0-for-6 night in New Jersey, with seven shots on the six power plays. There is zero concern about the players and the skill the Rangers deploy on man-advantages, but Quinn simply felt on Thursday night that "there just wasn't any rhythm" -- not an unfamiliar refrain during this stop-and-start October schedule.

"You're not going to score every time -- maybe the expectations are they're going to score every time they're out there, but they're not," Quinn said. "You can't alter your approach when you don't score a goal, and you can build momentum off a good power play if you don't score. And I just saw we started getting away from the things that we've been doing throughout the exhibition season and in the three games we've played."

The Capitals are completing a three-game homestand after splitting the first two. On Wednesday night they spotted a two-goal lead to the Maple Leafs before reeling off four straight goals in a 4-3 win. Goaltender Ilya Samsonov, Washington's first-round pick in 2015, earned his third win of his rookie season and first on home ice. Braden Holtby is expected to start against the Rangers, his first action since being pulled on Monday after allowing three goals on Colorado's first three shots of the game.

John Carlson's goal and two assists in Wednesday's win extended his points streak to five games. The 11th-year Caps defenseman enters Friday's game as the NHL's third-leading scorer, with 14 points (3-11--14). Evgeny Kuznetsov also has points in five straight, while Alex Ovechkin (five goals in eight games) carries a four-game points streak into his 57th game against the Rangers.

Washington will get a boost on its blue line with the return of Michal Kempny, who has been shelved for six months with a torn hamstring that required surgery in the spring. Kempny hasn't played since March 20 and coach Todd Rierden plans to ease him back in.


PROJECTED LINEUPS

RANGERS
10 Panarin -- 93 Zibanejad -- 89 Buchnevich
20 Krieder -- 21 Howden -- 24 Kakko
42 Smith -- 16 Strome -- 17 Fast
48 Lemieux/38 Haley -- 28 Andersson -- 14 McKegg

25 Hajek -- 8 Trouba
18 Staal -- 77 DeAngelo
76 Skjei -- 23 Fox

30 Lundqvist
40 Georgiev

CAPITALS
8 Ovechkin -- 19 Backstrom -- 77 Oshie
62 Hagelin -- 92 Kuznetsov -- 43 Wilson
13 Vrana -- 20 Eller -- 21 Hathaway
28 Leipsic -- 26 Dowd -- 18 Stephenson

34 Siegenthaler -- 74 Carlson
9 Orlov -- 3 Jensen
6 Kempny -- 33 Gudas

70 Holtby
30 Samsonov


NUMBERS GAME
Henrik Lundqvist will play in his 860th game on Friday night, tying Gump Worsley for 11th-most among goaltenders in NHL history. Worsley, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 1980, played 581 of his 860 games for the Rangers from 1952-63.

Lundqvist and Mike Richter are tied for most wins in Rangers history against the Capitals, with 21 apiece. Lundqvist is 12-6-5 with three shutouts in his last 23 appearances vs. Washington.

Brady Skjei led the Rangers with three goals in four games against the Capitals last season, including his first career multigoal game on Feb. 24.

Five of the Rangers' last seven games against the Capitals have reached overtime.

In three of their eight games this season, Caps goaltenders have allowed a goal on the first shot they've seen.

John Carlson is the third defenseman in NHL history with to record five multipoint games in the first eight games of a season. The others are Denis Potvin and Bobby Orr, twice.

Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer, 2-0 with a 1.80 postseason ERA for the National League champions, will drop the ceremonial first puck on Friday night.

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Ryan Strome's 15 points (5-10--15) in 21 games against the Caps are the most he has scored against any NHL opponent. Strome has an assist in each of the Rangers' last two games.

Ex-Ranger Carl Hagelin has 15 points (4-5--9) against the team that selected him in the sixth round of the 2007 Entry Draft.

WHADDYA SAY?
"I don't know who created the schedule but it must have been early Monday after a tough weekend. But it is what it is -- we just look forward to go play." --Henrik Lundqvist

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