Game 55 Preview: Caps Challenge Rangers at the Garden

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, February 11, 2009 | , , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (34-16-4-72, first in Southeast) face-off against the slumping New York Rangers (29-20-5-63, third in Atlantic) at 7:00 p.m. from historic Madison Square Garden.

New York has dropped five straight to the Caps, and are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games. They are 0-3-1 in the past four, being outscored 19-5 in that stretch. They lost Monday to division rival New Jersey 3-0.

The Rangers are led by Nikolai Zherdev (15-28-43, plus-5), Scott Gomez (10-26-36, minus-10) and captain Chris Drury (15-19-34, minus-8).

Gomez is scoreless in five games, and Drury has just three assists in his last nine games. One of the big reasons for New York's slump is their anemic power play. They are just 1-for17 with the extra man in their last six matches, and are 27th overall this season.

The Caps come off a rousing 3-1 win over Florida Saturday night, punctuated by killing off a five minute penalty as the game expired. The Caps are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.

In addition to another big road contest against a team lower in the standings, the player to watch tonight is Mike Green, who can tie an all-time record for a goal-scoring streak for defensemen. He sits at six games right now, and can equal the mark set by Boston's Mike O'Connell in 1983-84.

Green was the NHL's third star of the week last week after posting seven points (4 goals, 3 assists) in three games. Green leads all NHL defensemen in goals, power play points and overall points this season, despite missing 13 games to injury.

The Caps are limping a little bit into this one. Already missing Viktor Kozlov (Groin), Brent Johnson (Hip) and captain Chris Clark (Wrist), they found out that Alexander Semin may be unavailable tonight. His injury was undisclosed, but guessed to be a flare-up of his lingering back soreness.

Semin hasn't practiced the last couple of days, but will try to gut it out. If he can't go, the team recalled forward Jay Beagle from Hershey. If Beagle plays, he'll be seventh player to make his NHL debut for the Caps this season.

WAS: PP-3rd (23.6%, 54/229); PK-21st (79.2%, 54/259)
NYR: PP-27th (14.5%, 33/227); PK-2nd (86.4%, 30/221)

WAS: G Brent Johnson (Hip-Out); RW Chris Clark (Wrist-IR); RW Viktor Kozlov (Groin-IR); LW Alexander Semin (Undisclosed-Questionable); D Brian Pothier (Concussion-IR)

NYR: D Dmitri Kalinin (Back-Questionable)