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Rangers close out season in Washington; Zuccarello a game time decision

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers vs capitals scrum 3-29

The Rangers and the Capitals have always had a bit of bad blood, and they will close out the regular season together this afternoon at the Verizon Center. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

In the final game of the regular season, the Rangers (52-22-7) are in Washington D.C. to take on the Capitals (45-25-11) in what could potentially be a playoff matchup if both teams advance to the second round.

Although this game has no playoff implications for the Rangers, the Capitals could really use the two points here. They’ve already clinched a playoff spot, but a win would clinch home ice in their first round matchup against the New York Islanders. The Islanders are just one point behind them, so there are other scenarios that would give the Capitals home ice in the first round, but they’ll want to win to make it guaranteed, and render the Islanders game at 7 PM meaningless.

This game does have some meaning for the Rangers. One more win would set a new franchise record for wins in a season, and two points would set a new franchise record for points in a season. Henrik Lundqvist, who will be in net for the Rangers today, is just one win shy of 30 for the season. If he gets the win, that means that Henrik Lundqvist would have a 30 win season for every full season that he participated in.

This is the fourth and final meeting between these two teams this season, with the Rangers victorious in two of the first three games. The Capitals won the latest game at Madison Square Garden on March 29th, winning by a final score of 5-2 thanks to two goals from Alex Ovechkin. They won 3-1 on March 11th with goals from Carl Hagelin, JT Miller, and Martin St. Louis, and picked up a victory on December 23rd. That’s the one game that Henrik Lundqvist started, making 30 saves, and Rick Nash had his first hat trick as a member of the New York Rangers.

lundqvist save 12-23

Henrik Lundqvist was strong in his only matchup against the Capitals this season, with 30 saves in a 4-2 win at the Garden. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

 

Braden Holtby continues to be one of the most important members of this Capitals team. The Rangers got a look at him in two playoff series in 2012 and 2013, both of which went seven games due in part to Holtby’s play. He has gotten full trust from head coach Barry Trotz, appearing in a league high 72 games this season. Holtby is 41-19-10 with a 2.21 GAA and a .923 save percentage, a great stat line for his first full season in the NHL.

Obviously Alex Ovechkin will have an impact in every game he plays in. Ovechkin leads the league in goals with 52, and is just four points behind Sidney Crosby for the most points in the NHL, currently sitting at 80 points (52-28-80) for the season. He’s got the best one timer in the world, is deadly on the power play, and can score at will.

Depth is important on a team, and Joel Ward is one of the best depth players on the team. Ward’s play has given him the opportunity to play alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, the two leading scorers on the Capitals. Ward has 19 goals and 15 assists, putting him at eighth on the team in scoring with 34 points.

The Rangers are coming into this game with some holes in the lineup. Marc Staal and Rick Nash will not play for the second consecutive game, still dealing with undisclosed injuries that keep them day-to-day. Mats Zuccarello has missed the last two games with general body soreness, but will participate in warmups and will be a game-time decision.

 

Henrik Lundqvist will start just his 46th game of the season, his fewest games played in an 82 games season. Just one win away from 30 for the season. Lundqvist will be pushing hard for a win today in his final “tune-up” game before the playoffs begin.

The fourth line continues to stand out lately in each of the Rangers games. Dominic Moore has played every game this season, and is having a pretty solid year while building chemistry alongside Tanner Glass and Jespre Fast. A year after scoring six goals and 18 points in 73 games while winning the Masterson trophy, Dominic Moore has nine goals and 25 points, playing in every game so far this season. The fourth line has been very effective, and the depth will be very important come playoff time.

dominic moore 3-24

Dominic Moore has played a huge part in the Rangers success this season, providing depth scoring and valuable minutes on the penalty kill. Moore and the fourth line will look to do some damage against the Capitals this afternoon. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

 

The third line has been very good as well, with rookie sensation Kevin Hayes centering Carl Hagelin and Martin St. Louis. In a blend of skill, speed, and experience, the third line has grown into one of the most effective, and potentially dangerous, lines this season. Hayes has had a fantastic rookie season, with 16 goals and 27 assists. Martin St. Louis continues to defy his age, posting 50 points (21-29-50) in his 17th season in the league. And Carl Hagelin has tied his career high in goals (17), while also adding 18 assists. This trio will be very important come playoff time, and will have one more game today to build more chemistry.

The Rangers and the Capitals will face off at the Verizon Center and 12:30 PM. The game will be broadcasted on MSG Network.

EXPECTED LINES (Not Confirmed)

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-JT Miller

Carl Hagelin-Kevin Hayes-Martin St. Louis

Tanner Glass-Derick Brassard-James Sheppard

Ryan Bourque-Dominic Moore-Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Keith Yandle-Dan Boyle

Matt Hunwick-Chris Summers

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on April 11, 2015, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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