Preview: Capitals Host Rangers on Wednesday Night Hockey

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michael banner 2It seems like de ja vu. For the third Wednesday in a row we are back in Chinatown. This time it’ll be the New York Rangers taking on the Washington Capitals as two Metropolitan Division rivals meet for the first time in this young season. This game will be the first of four meetings between the defending champs and the Broadway Bluehsirts this season. The Caps look to end a two-game losing streak against a young and rebuilding Rangers hockey club. Puck drop from Chinatown is at 7 p.m. on the NBC Sports Network. 

The Matchup:

After defeating the Vegas Golden Knights one week ago, the Capitals dropped two in a row. First they were blanked by the Devils in New Jersey in the second half of a back-to-back. Then on Saturday night on home ice, the fell to the Maple Leafs. You can read more about the week that was over here. The last two Capitals contests have the potential to be playoff previews but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

The Rangers were in the thick of the fight for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference before they did a fire sale at the trade deadline. Like the 76ers of the NBA, the Rangers are counting on their fans to trust the process. The Blueshirts dropped their first three games of the season before notching their first win Thursday night in overtime, 3-2 over the San Jose Sharks. They dropped the following game to Connor McDavid’s Oilers and on Tuesday night 3-2 the Colorado Avalanche at MSG in a game that required a shootout. The difference came in a third round goal by Kevin Shattenkirk. Remember him?

Henrik Lundqvist got the start on Tuesday night. There is no telling who the Rangers will go with in net but in their last back-to-back they started Alexandar Georgiev. It is likely they could go with him tonight unless they feel more confident going with the king. Lundqvist’s record is 2-3-0 while Georgiev’s lone start came in a 8-5 loss to the Hurricanes on Sunday Oct. 7.

Like the Caps, the Rangers also have a first-year head coach at the helm. It is the David Quinn era over in Manhattan. He spent time in the Rangers farm system with their AHL affiliate in his playing career before he played for the Cleveland Lumberjacks of the International Hockey League before hanging his skates. He spent several years coaching at the college, youth, international at Team USA and NHL levels as an assistant.

While the peak of the rivalry was those playoff matchups of the past, tonight will still be a game the Capitals will gear up for.

Player matchup:

Mats Zuccarello vs. T.J. Oshie

The player matchup to watch comes on the second line, considering that’s what both teams go with. Oshie is tied with Ovechkin and Kuznetsov for the team lead in goals with four. Oshie also has two assists. He did not crack the scoresheet during the Caps two-game slide but scored the first Capitals goal of the season against the Bruins 24 seconds into the game. Oshie also had a pair of goals to rally the Capitals to force overtime the next night in Pittsburgh. It seems like when Oshie scores, the Caps get a lift and they’ll be looking for that from the Osh-babe tonight.

Zuccarello is in his ninth season with the Rangers and he looks to lead and set an example for the young guys this season. He is still searching for his first goal of the season but assisted on both Rangers goals in regulation Tuesday night. He has six apples on the season.

Caps lines:

Here’s how the Caps lined up during Tuesday’s practice. There were no changes so it looks like #TopLineStevey will be a thing, which works as we saw on Saturday night. Follow us on Twitter for updates from Morning Skate.

Milestone watch: 

Nicklas Backstrom needs four more assists till 600.

#CapsNYR Facts:

  • In 1,008 NHL games, Alex Ovechkin has scored 611 goals and on 128 different goaltenders. Ovechkin has 22 goals against Henrik Lundqvist, tied for the second-most of any NHL goaltender (Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins/Golden Knights 23 goals, Kari Lehtonen, 22).
  • It is a three-way tie for the Caps lead in goals scored this seaosn. Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and T.J. Oshie have each scored four.
  • The Capitals carry a 103-90-18-7 record against the Rangers including 56-40-9-4 record at home and have recorded a point in six straight games (5-0-1).

You can check out more facts here in the offical game notes.

This day in history:

44 years ago today, the Capitals won their first game in franchise history defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3. Denis Dupere led the Caps with two goals in that contest, and Ron Anderson and Jack Eagers each found the back of the net as well. Ron Low stopped 33 of the 36 shots he faced with a .917 save percentage in the win.

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