Pre-Game: Rangers Look To Get Back On Track Against Capitals

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(10-5-3, 23pts)               (12-7-1, 25pts)

“I think it’s going to be a really good game Friday because Washington is a really good team, an energy team. We have to match their intensity. If we do the things we do good I think we’ll have a chance to win.” – Dan Girardi

OPPONENT BLOG: Capitals Outsider

What better way to deal with those post-Thanksgiving hangovers than by watching your beloved Rangers play the Washington Capitals this evening. What’s that, you can think of plenty of better ways? Nah, not buying it.

Anyway, on a personal note, I hope everyone else at Blue Line Station, the readers of Blue Line Station and the general US population had a great day with their families, ate lots of good food and got absolutely hammered. Oh yeah, and if someone would be kind enough to send a few leftovers across the pond it would be much appreciated.

But on to the matter at hand. The Rangers look to snap a two-game losing skid against the Capitals at the Verizon Center this evening. Alex Ovechkin remains in a mini-funk, while the Caps have found it hard to grind out wins of late.

Join me after the jump for the full pre-game.

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PROJECTED LINES

Artem Anisimov – Derek Stepan – Marian Gaborik
Ruslan Fedotenko – Brad Richards – Ryan Callahan
Sean Avery – Brandon Dubinsky – Brandon Prust
Brian Boyle – John Mitchell – Carl Hagelin

Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Mike Sauer – Michael Del Zotto
Jeff Woywitka – Steve Eminger

Henrik Lundqvist

Steve Zipay confirms that both John Mitchell and Carl Hagelin will play tonight. Andre Deveaux (suspended) and Erik Christensen are scratched, while Anton Stralman also sits after just one game on the blueline. Jeff Woywitka returns to the line-up and, predictably, Henrik Lundqvist starts in goal.

KEYS TO THE GAME

KING HENRIK – Of course it goes without saying when it comes to playing the Caps, but Henrik Lundqvist will need to put up the wall tonight. I’m sure we don’t even need a beat-writer to tell us he’s starting because it’s impossible to see Torts going any other way. If Martin Biron does play one of the next three games then you’d imagine he would get his chance against the Flyers tomorrow afternoon at MSG, but given the recent schedule gaps it’s likely Lundqvist starts against the Caps, Flyers and Penguins over the next week. We all know what Hank can do to the Caps as he’s shown it in two playoff series’ recently, and with the Rangers struggling to score (LET ALONE SHOOT THE DAMN PUCK) one or two may be enough for Ovechkin and Co to take the points tonight. It’s a short leash that Lundqvist is more than used to and we know he’ll step up to the plate and give his team the best chance he can.

STAR POWER – Marian Gaborik has continually looked engaged despite the recent offensive struggles. The GAS line of Gaborik, Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan has slowed down a little, but it’s still the go-to line with Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan struggling for, well, much of anything at the moment. Gaborik needs to be engaged tonight and the Rangers need their best forward, like Lundqvist in goal, to be the difference in a game like this.

SHOTS, SHOTS, SHOTS –  The Blueshirts were brutal in losing to Montreal and Florida, that’s no secret to anyone. The defeats were one thing, but the discrepancy in shots (20-38) against the Panthers should be the most alarming thing here. No shots equals no goals, it’s not rocket science. Sure you’ll get by for a few games here and there, but it’s a continuing theme with the Rangers that’s going to catch up with them sooner rather than later. Shoot from anywhere, just get the puck on net and test Vokoun out there. 15-20 shots, against the Caps, won’t get it done.

POWER(LESS)PLAY – Would be nice to see it firing, wouldn’t it. While the Caps powerplay has had it’s struggles this season, you know that it’ll turn things around with Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin and Green out there. At some point the man-advantage needs to start being a difference maker for the Rangers, who sit 29th in terms of PP success rate ahead of only the St Louis Blues. That’s a pretty sad state of affairs.

A FAST START – The Rangers simply cannot afford to come out sleep-walking tonight as a huge difference in shots and chances could be deadly through the first 20 minutes against a team like Washington. Would I go as far as to say they HAVE to score the first goal? No, but it sure would be nice to give Lundqvist a cushion or two.

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Tags: Henrik Lundqvist Marian Gaborik New York Rangers NHL Pre-game Washington Capitals

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