November 25 vs. New York Rangers at Verizon Center
Time: 4:00 pm TV: Comcast SportsNet Radio: 1500AM, XM and Caps Radio Network Pre-Game: John Walton’s one-on-one audio with Bruce Boudreau at 2 p.m on capitalsvoice.com
New York Rangers (10-5-3)
Washington Capitals (12-7-1)
Last week, the Washington Capitals staggered their way through a difficult road trip, losing all three games to record their worst three-game trip in more than four years. They then returned home to open up a three-game homestand this week. The Caps downed Phoenix and Winnipeg by identical 4-3 scores in the first two games of that homestand, and they close out that homestand with a Friday matinee match against the New York Rangers.
With Wednesday’s win over Winnipeg, Washington is now 16-1-2 in its last 19 regular season home games, a streak that dates back to the end of the 2010-11 regular season. The Capitals are 7-1-1 in one-goal games this season.
The Caps played a strong all-around game against the Jets, and they came away with the win when winger Jason Chimera scored his second goal of the game at 1:52 of overtime. Chimera now has eight goals on the season, two shy of his total from 2010-11, achieved over 81 games. He leads Washington in goals, is tied for the team lead in plus/minus (plus-9), and is tied for third on the team in scoring with 13 points.
The Caps struggled against the Rangers during the 2010-11 regular season, suffering lopsided 7-0 and 6-0 defeats on the road and at home, respectively. But Washington later bounced New York from the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs in a five-game series in the first round.
Caps coach Bruce Boudreau was asked if he figures on the Rangers having any extra jump on Friday against the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last spring.
“I am, but I don’t know if it’s because of the playoffs thing,” says Boudreau. “I think it’s because they lost and their coach is pretty fiery and they don’t like losing two in a row. And they were probably a little rusty. They had like a week off going into [Wednesday’s] game. So they’ll probably be better suited for [Friday’s] game.
For the Rangers, Friday’s game is the last of four straight on the road.
“To me, they have a total advantage,” says Boudreau. “They’re in a hotel on Thanksgiving. Our players have their families around and it’s a busier time. I’ve always found it an advantage to be the away team on Thanksgiving.”
Twenty games into the 2011-12 season, the Caps are moving along at a similar pace to most recent seasons past. They were 8-6-6 (22 points) at this stage of the 2006-07 season, 6-13-1 (13 points) in 2007-08, 11-6-3 (25 points) in 2008-09, 12-4-4 (28 points) in 2009-10 and 14-5-1 (29 points) last season.
The Caps started this season without any rookies on their roster. They’ve since recalled center Cody Eakin and defenseman Dmitry Orlov from AHL Hershey, and both have performed well. Eakin has played in 10 games and Orlov two. Eakin has seen some time as a power play point man, and Orlov may be set to assume some of those responsibilities as well, perhaps as soon as Friday against the Rangers.
“He’s a skilled player,” says Boudreau of his rookie defenseman. “I didn’t want to just throw him in cold to the game on that. I wanted him to see some video and practice it before we give him an opportunity. He’s s skilled offensive player and he was good at it in Hershey. Obviously that’s part of our game that’s struggling right now. We’d like to be able to see a little bit more of him, and we might be able to use him on it tomorrow.”
Washington’s power play ranks 15th in the league with a success rate of 16.7%. The Capitals’ penalty-killing unit ranks 21st in the NHL with a kill rate of 79.4%.
Four teams are within five points of one another in the NHL’s Atlantic Division, and the Rangers are tied for third with the New Jersey Devils.
New York reeled off a seven-game winning streak starting in late October, but that run came to a halt earlier this week with road losses at Montreal (4-0) on Saturday and at Florida (2-1) on Wednesday.
The Rangers have been stingy defensively all season long. They’ve allowed an average of just 2.11 goals per game in 2011-12, the third lowest figure in the league.
New York’s key off-season acquisition was center Brad Richards. With 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in 18 games, he is second on the team in scoring. Richards is averaging 21:19 in ice time per night, tops among the team’s forwards and 10th among all forwards in the NHL.
New York’s power play ranks 29th in the league this season with a 12.2% success rate. The Rangers rank ninth in the NHL with a penalty efficiency of 85.3%.