Saturday Night Date With Rangers
March 6 vs. New York Rangers at Verizon Center
820AM, 1500AM, 106.7 FM and XM
Pre-Cap Podcast at 2 p.m. and Two-Man Advantage Pre-Game show at 6:30 p.m., both on www.washingtoncaps.com
New York Rangers (29-27-8)
Washington Capitals (43-13-8)
Washington’s five-game homestand continues on Saturday when the New York Rangers visit Verizon Center. The game closes out the season’s series between the Capitals and the Blueshirts and it is also Washington’s final Saturday night home date of the regular season.
New York is one of only three teams to knock off the Capitals in regulation time in 30 games at Verizon Center this season. The Blueshirts handed the Caps their first home setback of the season on Oct. 8. The Rangers’ Marian Gaborik fueled that 4-3 New York win with a pair of third-period goals, but he has missed New York's last four games with an injury and is questionable for Saturday's game.
The Caps are coming off a sweep of a back-to-back set, a Wednesday win in Buffalo and a Thursday triumph over Tampa Bay at Verizon Center. Washington had three new faces – forwards Scott Walker and Eric Belanger and defenseman Joe Corvo – in the lineup in its 5-4 win over the Lightning. Walker scored twice, including the game-winner, in the third period.
The addition of Corvo and the recent recall of John Carlson
gives the Caps three right-handed, puck-moving defensemen. The 32-year-old Corvo also gives Washington a versatile workhorse on the blueline.
With Carolina prior to Wednesday’s trade, Corvo led all Hurricanes with an average of 3:23 in shorthanded ice time per game. He also paced all Carolina skaters with an average of 4:38 in power play ice time per contest.
In his Washington debut against the Lightning on Thursday, Corvo logged a total of 20:19 with 2:54 coming while the Caps were shorthanded and 2:37 while Washington enjoyed the man-advantage.
Nearly half (30 of 66) of Corvo’s career goals and assists (71 of 146) have come on the power play. He features a cannon of a shot and he fires frequently. Last season, the Caps’ Mike Green
finished fourth in the league in shots on goal among blueliners and Corvo was sixth. This season, Corvo was sidelined for more than two months with a lacerated calf, so his shot total is down. He is still averaging 2.2 shots per game, down a bit from his 2.6 figure from 2008-09.
Corvo ranked 24th among NHL defensemen in average ice time per game (24:19) last season. That number has nudged up to 25:04 in 2009-10, ranking 12th in the circuit.
“He’s a good player,” says Boudreau of Corvo. “People don’t realize, he went to the [conference] finals last year and he played 26-30 minutes every night. He was the top defenseman on that team and when he missed 30 games this year it was in the middle of them not playing very well.
“We’ve got a good player and a good puck-moving defensemen. You can’t beat a good puck-moving defenseman with the forwards we can throw out at you.”
Goaltender Jose Theodore was between the pipes for the Caps in the win at Buffalo, and Semyon Varlamov
earned the win against the Lightning. Theodore is now 11-0-2 in his last 13 appearances, and Varlamov is 8-0 on Verizon Center ice this season, so Caps coach Bruce Boudreau has good options whichever way he leans with his goaltending decision on Saturday.
The Caps lead the NHL with 251 goals, 47 more than the next nearest team on the ledger. That’s the greatest margin between the first- and second-place teams in the league in goals since 1992-93 when the Detroit Red Wings lapped the field by 50 goals.
In 66 games this season, Washington has rolled up a plus-66 (172-106) in five-on-five goals. By comparison, the Rangers are even (110-110) in the same category.
The Rangers are one of three teams with 66 points, which is tied for eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings. Since roaring out to a 7-1 start this season, New York has gone 21-26-8.
Washington and New York last met just over a month ago at Madison Square Garden with the Caps prevailing 6-5 in a wild affair. The Rangers dented the Capitals for four power play goals in that game; they’ve scored four power play goals in half a dozen games since. The Blueshirts have posted a solid 4-1-1 record in those six contests as they bid for one of the final three playoff berths in the Eastern Conference.
Most recently, the Rangers squandered a third-period lead in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, a game in which New York was outshot by the colossal margin of 55-16. The Blueshirts led 4-3 after two periods but were outshot 23-1 the rest of the way. New York netminder Henrik Lundqvist made 50 stops in that game, the first Rangers goaltender to do so since Mike Richter had 53 saves against New Jersey on Oct. 30, 1996.
For New York, Saturday’s visit to the District is the start of a back-to-back weekend set. The Blueshirts head home to host the Sabres on Sunday.