When: Friday, November 25th, 4:00 PM
Opponent: @ Washington Capitals (12-7-1)
UPDATE: Andre Deveaux has been suspended for three games. (12:22 p.m.)
UPDATE: Hagelin and Mitchell will be in the Rangers' lineup today in place of Deveaux and Erik Christensen. Anton Stralman will be the other healthy scratch for the Blueshirts, and Jeff Woywitka will take his place. (2:03 p.m.)
EARLIER: After spending Thanksgiving in the nation’s capital, the Rangers will face off against Washington tomorrow afternoon to complete a four game road trip. The Capitals and the Rangers have been heading in opposite directions as of late, with the Caps coming off a two game winning streak after losing four straight, and the Rangers emerging from a two game slump after winning seven straight. Lurking in the background of these current stats is the fact that this is the first time these two teams will meet since the Caps booted the Rangers from the first round of the playoffs in five games last April, and the Blueshirts are bound to be out for revenge.
Despite this, both the Capitals and the Rangers are very different teams this season. Caps coach Bruce Boudreau has been running a tight ship—his key mantra this season has been “accountability.” Under Boudreau’s reign, if you snooze, you lose. (Sometimes literally, as Joel Ward can tell you.) Even superstar Alex Ovechkin was benched for a lackluster effort early in November, and fellow offensive powerhouse Alex Semin was made a healthy scratch in Monday’s game against the Coyotes due to his consistently undisciplined play.
Both Semin and Ovechkin have had relatively underwhelming starts to the season, with Semin earning 10 points and Ovechkin clocking in at 16. Some of Washington’s most important goals have come from unexpected players: Winger Jason Chimera, who scored a total of 10 goals in 81 games last season, already has 8 goals on the season. He earned the team lead in goals after scoring two in Wednesday night’s game against the Jets, including the game winner at 1:52 of overtime.
Surprisingly, the Caps’ power play has also been struggling as of late—though not as embarrassing as the Rangers’ 29th ranked power play, Washington is only 13th overall with 17.3% efficiency, and with dynamic players like Ovechkin, Semin, and Niklas Backstrom on the man-advantage, the numbers should certainly be much higher. Still, Backstrom’s 23 points in 20 games is nothing to scoff at.
The Rangers will certainly have their work cut out for them tomorrow afternoon. The Caps boast a 16-9-2 record over the last 19 regular season home games, and the Blueshirts haven’t experienced overwhelming success on the road this season. Predictably, New York has stronger numbers defensively, but as was demonstrated in the past two games against Montreal and Florida, goaltenders cannot win games alone without a boost from the team’s offense. While the Gaborik-Anisimov-Stepan line combined for 8 goals and 14 assists in five games at the beginning of November, this line has sputtered offensively in the past three games, with Derek Stepan scoring the line’s (and the team’s) only goal against the Panthers. The Rangers, in an attempt to overcome this offensive slump, must overwhelm the Capitals with shots on net, and will likely rely on the G.A.S line to lead the way.
With a probable suspension facing Rangers’ forward Andre Deveaux, John Mitchell and Carl Hagelin have been called up from Connecticut. Hagelin and Mitchell are tied for the team lead in goals, and Hagelin towers over the rest of his team with a plus-12 rating. Mitchell seems to be the more natural replacement for Deveaux, but Hagelin will add a sorely needed burst of creativity and speed to the Rangers’ lineup. Jim Cerny speculates that both forwards will be in the lineup against the Caps, though it is unclear which extra forward will sit to make room for the Connecticut duo.
The Blueshirts have several important games coming up against conference rivals Flyers and Penguins, and are looking to build up some momentum tomorrow with a revitalized offense against a familiar foe.
Reminder: HBO will air a 12-minute preview of “24/7” today at 9:15 PM.