Big game in the Big Apple

Big game in the Big Apple
March 24, 2013, 9:00 am
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NEW YORK – News and notes as the Capitals [14-16-1, 29 points] prepare to face the New York Rangers [15-13-2, 32 points] tonight at MadisonSquareGarden [6:30 p.m. Caps Central, CSN]:

What it means: The Caps fell from 10th in the Eastern Conference standings to 11th, thanks to Buffalo’s 2-1 win in Montreal on Saturday. But a regulation win over the Rangers tonight in the final regular season game between the two teams could do wonders for the Caps’ collective psyche. The Capitals would move within one point of the eighth-place Hurricanes and ninth-place Rangers with a regulation win. And if the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the reeling Jets in Winnipeg tonight after the firing of coach Guy Boucher the Caps would creep within three points of the Southeast Division lead with one game in hand on the Jets.

Tough matchup: The Rangers have held the Caps to just two goals in their two meetings this season, beating them 2-1 in New York on Feb. 17 with Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes and 4-1 in D.C. on March 10 with Martin Biron in goal. Braden Holtby [12-10-0, 2.68, .916] was in goal for the Caps in both losses and is expected to face Lundqvist [13-12-1, 2.22, .921] tonight. This will mark the first time the Caps will face the Rangers this season with Mike Green and Brooks Laich in the lineup.

Early to rise: With his players having a free night in New York on Saturday night, Caps coach Adam Oates switched the team's morning skate from 11:30 to 10 a.m. on Sunday. 

Holt-beast: During the month of March Holtby has posted a 6-3-0 record with a 1.88 goals-against average, a .940 save percentage and two shutouts. He recorded his 12th win of the season Thursday night in Winnipeg, extending his a career high for wins in a single season.

Rangers sputtering: The Rangers have dropped four of their last six games and have scored just seven goals in that span.

Special teams: The Caps are the NHL’s top-ranked team on the power play with 26 goals on 106 attempts [24.5 percent]. The Rangers rank 25th in the league at 13.8 percent. The Caps rank 26th in penalty killing [77.6 percent] but Laich has generated two shorthanded breakaways since his return, missing both. The Rangers are ranked 12th on the PK at 82.5 percent.

Rise of Ovi: With his two goals Friday night in Winnipeg Alex Ovechkin now has seven points (three goals, four assists) during his current five-game point streak. Ovechkin ranks tied for seventh in the league in goals and leads the league in power-play goals with 10. Ovechkin has 14 points [7 goals, 7 assists] in 12 games in March. If this was an 82-game season Ovechkin would be on pace for 40 goals and 37 assists for 77 points.

Ovi vs. Blueshirts: In two games against the Rangers this season Ovechkin has no goals on 11 shots and is a minus-2. In last year’s playoff series against New York Ovechkin had three goals, one assist, 22 shots and was a minus-3 in seven games.

Hot hands: Mike Ribeiro has nine points [4 goals, 5 assists] during his current five-game point streak and ranks tied for fourth in the league in assists. Nicklas Backstrom is also on a five-game point streak, with one goal and five assists. Backstrom ranks tied for seventh in the league in assists

Road test: If the Caps are going to make a push for the playoffs they’ll need to do it on the road, where they improved to 6-9-1 with back-to-back wins in Winnipeg. The Caps are concluding a four-game road trip tonight and are in the midst of a stretch in which 11 of 17 games are on the road. On the bright side, seven of the Caps’ next eight games are against teams in the bottom half of the Eastern standings.

What’s next: Following tonight’s game the Caps are home against the Islanders on Tuesday, then hit the road for games in Buffalo, Philadelphia and Carolina. After that April 2 game in Raleigh the Caps close out the regular season with eight of their final 12 game at Verizon Center.