After a disappointing loss Sunday afternoon to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the New York Rangers welcome the Washington Capitals to Madison Square Garden in the final game before Wednesday's trade deadline.
Head coach Alain Vigneault, captain Ryan McDonagh and several players cited a lack of effort in Sunday's 5-2 defeat against Columbus that saw Rick Nash and Jesper Fast each score goals.
The Rangers have been one of the best defensive teams over the last month, but that wasn't the case against the Blue Jackets who were able to create traffic in Henrik Lundqvist's crease in scoring the most goals against New York in a game since Columbus registered six against the Rangers back on Jan. 31.
But now the focus shifts to the Capitals, who are currently sitting atop of the NHL standings with 89 points. The two teams met just over a week ago with the Rangers besting Washington 2-1 at The Garden.
Tuesday is the third of four meetings between the two clubs, with the Rangers have won both matchups thus far this season. Lundqvist - who is expected to get the start - has been in goal for both wins this year.
The Rangers have had the Capitals' number for the last several years, with New York earning points in 18 of their last 25 games against Washington dating back to Dec. 12, 2010.
While it would be difficult to say the Capitals (41-13-7) are slumping, they have just two wins in their last five games since their bye week, including a 5-2 loss against the Nashville Predators Saturday.
Nicklas Backstrom leads the Capitals with 63 points this season, good enough for sixth in the NHL, and just two points behind third. As has been the case for the last decade-plus, Alex Ovechkin finds himself near the top of the NHL's goal scoring list with 27 tallies this season.
Goaltender Braden Holtby is expected to get the start in goal for the Capitals Tuesday after he served as the backup in last week's meeting. Holtby is 31-8-5 this season with a 1.97 GAA and a .928 SV%, and is tied for the NHL lead with seven shutouts.
As of Monday, Washington has the fifth-best power play in the NHL at 21.8 percent, while the Rangers rank 16th at 18.9 percent. The Capitals' penalty kill comes in seventh, while the Rangers are 14th overall.