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Rangers Return to Action to Host Caps at MSG

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

Rangers (19-13-4, 42 pts) vs. Capitals (22-13-2, 46 pts)
8 pm, Madison Square Garden

The Game

The Rangers return to action following their three-day Christmas break looking to snap a two-game winless streak when they host the Washington Capitals tonight at Madison Square Garden.

New York entered the break with two straight losses, most recently Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs at MSG. Jimmy Vesey and J.T. Miller each scored and Henrik Lundqvist turned in another strong effort with 34 saves in the loss.

Saturday was the first game without Jesper Fast, who is expected to miss two-to-three weeks with a quad injury. Coach Alain Vigneault reinstated Boo Nieves for that match, and the organization opted not to recall a forward from Hartford prior to the recess. 

Lundqvist is expected to get the start against the Capitals, a team he has 21 wins in 37 career regular season games against for his career.

Tonight is the second of four meetings between the Rangers and Capitals, and the first at The Garden. The teams last met on Dec. 8 in Washington, which the Capitals won, 4-2.

The Capitals enter tonight's game tied for second in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind the New Jersey Devils. Like the Rangers, Washington entered the Christmas holiday with back-to-back losses (0-1-1), including a 3-0 loss to the Golden Knights Saturday in Vegas.

Washington's two big Russians, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin, lead the team with 38 and 37 points, respectively, in 37 games this year. Ovechkin leads the team with 23 goals, though he has just two in his last eight games.

Braden Holtby is having another strong season with a record of 20-8-0 with a 2.65 GAA and a .918 SV%.

Players to Watch

Ryan McDonagh is still looking for his first goal of the year, but he's still generating plenty of offense with 18 assists. The captain's 17 helpers and 19 points against Washington are the most he has against any other opponent in the NHL. He has a point in seven of his last eight games against the Capitals with a goal and eight assists over that span.

Forward TJ Oshie returned to the Capitals' lineup prior to the break after missing several weeks due to an injury. He recorded an assist in his first game back against Arizona on Friday night, and has seven points in 16 career regular season games against the Rangers.

Inside the Numbers

The Rangers have earned at least one point in 18 of their last 28 games against Washington, dating back to Dec. 12, 2010 (16-10-2 record). In addition, the Blueshirts have registered at least one point in nine of their last 15 contests against the Capitals, dating back to Jan. 19, 2014 (8-6-1 record).

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