The Washington Capitals, second seed in the Eastern Conference, host the seventh-seeded New York Rangers in Game One of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at 7:00 pm from what promises to be a raucous, sold out, red-clad Verizon Center.

Tonight's game will be the fifth this season between the two teams. The Capitals won the regular season series three games to one, but these Rangers bear little resemblance to the early-season Blueshirts.

Coach John Tortorella took over late in the season and guided the Rags to a 12-7-2 record down the stretch after losing 10 of their previous 12 games under previous head coach Tom Renney.

This first round matchup pits teams of opposite strengths: the Capitals electrifying offensive attack against the Rangers stifling defense.

Washington is led, of course, by Alex Ovechkin. The back-to-back Richard Trophy winner for most goals registered 56 this season, falling just short of repeating the overall scoring title he won last season. His partners in crime, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and company helped propel the Caps to the number three spot in goals scored and finished second in power play efficiency.

The Caps had nine players with double-digit goals, and hope to get contributions up and down the roster.

The Rangers will depend on goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and a very strong defensive corps to keep DC from lighting the lamp. Lundqvist has been a Vezina finalist the last three years in a row and has been successful in every league or tournament he's played in, including leading Sweden to the Olympic gold medal in the 2006 games.

The Caps will depend on Jose Theodore (32-17-9, 2.87, .900) in net, with rookie Simeon Varlamov backing him up. Veteran backup Brent Johnson was not cleared by the medical team to resume full-speed play.

Washington did receive some good news today: Team captain Chris Clark has been cleared to play after missing 33 games with a wrist injury. He won't suit up tonight, but getting their captain back has to bolster the morale of the team, and in the playoffs, every little bit helps.

Defenseman Tom Poti, however, will be a game-time decision with his lingering groin injury. If Poti can go, according to Capitals Insider, Brian Pothier will probably be odd man out for game one.

The status of Donald Brashear (knee) and Boyd Gordon (finger) are still unclear, and may remain so until after pre-game warmups.

All photos (c) C. Nichols 2008-09. All rights reserved.