News and notes as the Capitals [5-8-1] prepare for their 6 p.m. faceoff against the New York Rangers [7-5-1] at Madison Square Garden [NBC Sports Network]:
Where they stand: The Caps have won three games in a row and can climb within two points of the eighth-place Rangers with a regulation win. The Rangers won three straight before falling to the Islanders 4-3 in a shootout Thursday night. They have blown leads of 3-0 and 2-0 in their last two games.
Who’s in goal: The Caps are expected to go with Braden Holtby [4-4-0, 3.90, .877], while the Rangers are expected to turn to Henrik Lundqvist [6-5-0, 2.48, .912]. The two goalies also faced each other in last year’s second-round playoff series, won by the Rangers in six games.
“It was a great series,” Holtby recalled. “The way we played, blocking shots, the energy in the buildings. But what I remember most is losing there [in Game 7]. We’ve got to make sure we do better.”
Looking back: The Capitals had the Rangers on the ropes with a one-goal lead late in Game 5 of last year’s conference semifinals, but a double-minor penalty to Joel Ward led to back-to-back goals by the Rangers, who took a 3-2 lead in the series and went on to win in seven games.
“Bad feelings,” Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin recalled, “but I don’t want to talk about last year.”
“I remember how hard that series was,” Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said. “They’re not an easy team to play against as a defenseman. They come hard and they hit hard. That’s not an easy building to play in.”
“For [Holtby] it was kind of his coming-out party,” recalled Caps coach Adam Oates, who pre-scouted the series as an assistant coach for the Devils. “Against Boston and the Rangers he played really good hockey and gave the team confidence and I think the team played better because of that. That series could have gone either way.”
Who’s hot: Troy Brouwer has four goals in his last three games and lead the Caps with seven goals. “Guys are confident in this room,” he said, “a little cockiness I guess you could say as far as playing well and trusting our system.” For the Rangers, forward Carl Hagelin also has four goals in his last three games.
Battling systems: Under Oates the Capitals play an aggressive, attacking system based on puck possession. Under John Tortorella the Rangers play a more passive, counter-attacking style based on blocking shots.
“That’s the system he plays and he has his reasons for it,” Oates said. “It kind of doesn’t matter to me. We’re going to play the way we play.”
Facing Halpy: Caps fans will get their first look at Jeff Halpern in a Rangers jersey. The 36-year-old center signed a one-year contract with the Rangers over the summer and has played in all 13 games. He has no points and is a minus-2 while winning 55 percent of his faceoffs and averaging 10:15 of ice time.
“I’ve known him since my first year,” Ovechkin said of Halpern, who was captain of the Capitals when Ovechkin arrived in D.C. “He treated me well. He’s a good leader out there. A great faceoff guy, a PK guy. I’m happy for him.”
Remember me?: The Caps will be facing off against Arron Asham, who made a few enemies in the Caps locker room last season when he decked Jay Beagle in a fight and mocked him with a sleeping gesture. Asham has now played for all five teams in the Atlantic Division – the Isles, Devils, Flyers, Penguins and Rangers.
Remember us?: A pair of Capitals and a pair of Rangers will be facing their former teams. Tom Poti [2001-06] and Wojtek Wolski [2010-12] played for the Rangers, while Halpern [1999-06 and 2011-12] and Steve Eminger [2002-08] plated for the Caps.
Special teams: The Rangers rank 10th in the NHL in penalty killing [83 percent] and have killed off 12 straight power plays over the past four games. But they rank 28th on the power play at 10.4 percent. Conversely, the Caps rank fourth on the power play at 27.1 percent but rank 24th on the kill at 75 percent.