March 10 vs. New York Rangers at Verizon Center
Time: 12:30 p.m.
Radio: 106.7 The Fan and Caps Radio Network
New York Rangers (12-9-2)
Washington Capitals (10-12-1)
Washington finishes up a busy weekend on Sunday at Verizon Center when it hosts the New York Rangers in a nationally televised matinee match. The game marks New York’s lone visit to the District this season. Washington has won four straight games on Verizon Center ice.
In the lone previous meeting between the two teams this season, the Rangers eked out a 2-1 win over Washington at Madison Square Garden exactly three weeks ago. Each of the three games between the two teams will be played on a Sunday this season; the Caps visit MSG once again in two weeks to close out the season’s series between the two teams.
The Caps come into Sunday’s game on the heels of another road loss, a 5-2 setback at the hands of the Islanders in New York on Saturday. It was Washington’s eighth loss in 11 road games (3-7-1) this season. The Capitals were even with the Isles until they put themselves in deep penalty trouble in the middle of the third period. New York scored three special-teams goals – one on the power play and one shorthanded – in a span of just 4:46 to finish Washington off.
“I think it was a good road game,” says Caps center NIcklas Backstrom of Saturday’s game against the Islanders. “We played our system, and we got some chacnes to score. We were still in it in the third period. We’ve got to stay out of the [penalty] box to win, I think. That’s what we’ve got to focus on right now.”
Now the Caps will need to come back on short rest – minus another hour for the change to Daylight Savings Time – and face the Rangers at home.
“Just be smart and take care of your body, get the required rest and eat right, and just come back [Sunday] refocused and refreshed and ready to go,” says Caps defenseman Jeff Schultz, on how the Caps need to handle themselves over this stretch of 17 games in 30 nights.
Rookie Caps goaltender Philipp Grubauer made his first NHL start in Saturday’s game. He acquitted himself much better than the score would indicate. Grubauer kept the Caps within striking distance, and had his team all even on the road going into the second half of the third period.
Washington unraveled shortly after Nicklas Backstrom’s tying goal, surrendering three special-teams tallies to the Islanders in a span of less than five minutes. Caps center Mike Ribeiro and defenseman Jeff Schultz each took double-minor penalties in a span of less than four minutes, and New York took advantage of the Caps’ lack of discipline to net the game-winner and an insurance strike – both off the stick of John Tavares – on the power play.
The Caps had a chance to draw within one on a late power play of their own, but the Islanders administered the dagger with a shorthanded goal on a 2-on-1 rush just nine seconds after that Islanders penalty began.
Caps goaltender Braden Holtby had made 11 consecutive starts before Grubauer’s Saturday assignment on Long Island, and you can expect to see Holtby return to the Washington crease for Sunday’s game.
During the life of Holtby’s streak of starts, he posted an 8-3 record to go along with a 2.08 GAA and a .935 save pct. Three of his wins during that stretch came via the shutout route.
Washington defenseman John Erskine left Saturday’s game against his former employers, suffering an upper body injury after skating just two shifts totaling 1:18. Caps coach Adam Oates says Erskine is day-to-day, but it’s possible that both Schultz and Tom Poti will suit up for Washington against the Rangers if Erskine is deemed unfit for duty.
“Every point is important, I think,” says Backstrom. “You’ve got to make sure you get a good start, especially because we played [Saturday]. It’s going to be even more important [Sunday] to come out hard. We know we’re playing a good team so we’ve got to rest and make sure we come out with good energy tomorrow.”
After playing 15 of their first 23 games at home this season, the Rangers are hitting the road. Their Sunday visit to Verizon Center starts a four-game road trip, and the Blueshirts will play eight of their next 11 away from Manhattan.
New York hits town on the heels of a 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Friday night at MSG. Ottawa took a 2-0 first period lead in that game, but the Rangers drew even before the end of the first session. The game remained knotted until the late stages of the third when the Senators’ Jakob Silfverberg scored on a rebound to make winners of Ottawa. The Sens are now 12-1-1 in their last 14 visits to MSG.
As they head out on the road, the Rangers carry a 3-4-1 road record this season. Heading into Saturday’s busy NHL slate of activity, New York is nestled in eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings.