Rangers vs. Capitals
7 pm, Madison Square Garden
Rangers Record:11 - 8 - 1
Capitals Record: 12 - 4 - 4
He wasn't going to miss this one. NHL-star Alex Ovechkin returns tonight from an upper body injury that caused him to miss six games, but wouldn't let it miss an opportunity to shine at the World's Most Famous Arena.
Without him, the Capitals stayed strong and won four of the games, relying heavily on their talented secondary scoring from Alex Semin and Niklas Backstrom. Backstrom has 22 points in 20 games while Semin has 17 points in 18 games.
Winger Brooks Laich and defenseman Mike Green have also gotten back on the scoring path, with Laich collecting 19 points in 20 games and Green putting up 18 points in 19 contests.
Veteran Brendan Morrisson has also been rejuvenated scoring 16 points on the season.
So while the Capitals get AO back, they lose a less-prominent but important player in former Ranger Mike Knuble, who is out 3 - 4 weeks with a broken finger.
Knuble has been a good off-season addition for Washington, scoring 15 point
s and tied with Ovechkin for the team lead in +/- with +10.
One question continues to linger, however, with the Capitals and that is their goaltending.
Jose Theodore has taken 14 games this season, with a record of 5 - 3 - 4 and a goals against average (GAA) of 3.24. Rookie Semyon Varlamov, who rescued Washington against the Rangers last season, has had a markedly better record of 7 - 1 - 0 and a GAA of 2.67.
Head Coach Bruce Boudreau hoped to rejuvenate the inconsistent Theodore, but it has occasionally came at the expense of a victory.
The Rangers, however, don't have the same goaltending quandry as Henrik Lundqvist is back to form. His 2.51 GAA is a little higher than his typical average, but in the past two weeks, he has seen his numbers start to come down.
Defense has a lot to do with that. From the onset of the season, the Rangers struggled in their own end, particularly as it relates to zone coverage and positioning. But with Wade Redden settling in and rookies Matt Gilroy and Mike Del Zotto shoring up their play, the Rangers have become steadier in their own zone. Young veterans Marc Staal and Dan Girardi have been a bit behind, but with some tempered expectations, they too have looked more confident in the past two weeks.
Offensively, the Rangers have begun seeing some contributions from their secondary units, due partially to some injuries. Enver Lisin has looked terrific while Ryan Callahan has gotten back into the groove of hard play on the boards and non-stop skating.
Chris Higgins may not have started a streak yet, but he too is looking more comfortable and dictating play more, especially along the half boards.
Brian Boyle also continues to impress as he has shown the ability to be effective in limited minutes.
Chris Drury and Brandon Dubinsky both continue to be out indefinitely which will continue to force some shakeup in the lines. Call-up P.A. Parenteau, who scored the game winner against Ottawa, will continue to be in the lineup.
Game time is 7 pm.