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Rangers make changes before Metropolitan clash with red-hot Capitals

Bobby Bevilacqua

Rangers vs capitals Game 7 faceoff 5-13

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

For the first time since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the New York Rangers (7-2-2) will battle Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals (8-2-0), in search of their eighth win in the past nine games.

This is the first of five games between these two teams, bitter rivals that have seen a lot of each other over the past five years, meeting in the playoffs yet again last season. In one of the greatest goaltending battles the NHL postseason has ever seen, the Rangers came away with the series win after seven one goal games.

The Capitals will be out for revenge, looking to climb to the top of the Metropolitan Division and stake their claim as one of the best teams in the East. Looking at their roster, the Caps should be considered a top team.

Like the Rangers, Washington has been a good scoring team while also not allowing many goals. Braden Holtby continues to trend upwards as one of the elite netminders in the NHL, posting a 6-2-0 record, a 1.90 GAA and a .924 save percentage to start the year. He’s allowed two goals or less in each of his last six appearances.

Alex Ovechkin is tied for first on the team in goal scoring (5), while Evgeny Kuznetsov has been showing why he was taken in the first round of the 2010 draft. Kuznetsov leads the team with 13 points (5-8-13), recording eight of those points in the past five games alone. His first career hat trick came in a five point effort against the Oilers.

The Capitals have quite a few threats in their lineup, including Ovechkin (5-7-12), ‘Mr. Game 7” Justin Williams (2-6-8), Nicklas Backstrom (4-4-8) and former Blues forward TJ Oshie (4-4-8). John Carlson has scored 10 points (2-8-10) from the blue line.

The Capitals have won the first four road games to start the season, and winning a fifth straight game would set a new franchise record. But the Rangers have been one of the best home teams in the league, posting a 5-1-1 record at Madison Square Garden.

New York will counter with Henrik Lundqvist in net, enjoying one of the best starts to a season in recent memory.  Despite allowing just two goals or less in each of his last five games, Lundqvist has a record of 2-2-1 in those games. He’s faced nearly 300 shots already, but has still posted a very impressive 1.87 GAA and a .943 save percentage, which is just .001 off of the NHL lead.

henrik lundqvist side profile 10-10

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Alain Vigneault made some lineup changes yesterday during practice, re-inserting Viktor Stalberg back into the lineup and scratching Dan Boyle for the rookie Dylan McIlrath. Stalberg comes into the lineup for Emerson Etem, and will skate on the third line with Kevin Hayes and Oscar Lindberg. JT Miller was moved down to the fourth line with Dominic Moore and Jarret Stoll. McIlrath will partner with Keith Yandle.

Dan Girardi is back with Ryan McDonagh, something I’m not particularly excited about. McDonagh isn’t himself, and seems to still be recovering from that broken foot. Dan Girardi isn’t a great skater or outlet passer, so pairing him with another struggling defenseman doesn’t do McDonagh any favors.

The power play units were also shaken up, and Oscar Lindberg gets his chance on the man advantage on the second unit with McDonagh and Klein on the point, and Kreider and Hayes at the forward. I’ll be looking for Lindberg to take the shot, and not be another pass-first player.

Mats Zuccarello and the top line have been really improving over the past few games, especially during Friday’s win over the Maple Leafs. Zuccarello scored his first career hat trick, and Rick Nash and Derick Brassard had the primary and secondary assists on all of them. Zuccarello has seven goals to start the season, and Rick Nash seems poised to break out.

Dylan McIlrath and Keith Yandle are both players to watch for me. McIlrath was a better possession player in the preseason than Girardi has been, so Yandle may be able to move the puck more and generate chances. McIlrath gets another shot to prove himself, and if Yandle can find him open at the point, his heavy shot will come in handy.

dylan mcilrath skating 10-13

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Alain Vigneault said that both the team and Boyle believes that he can be playing better than he has. That is true, although Boyle hasn’t been the worst defenseman at all. Nevertheless, McIlrath has a chance to usurp the veteran and continue to fight for a starting job in the NHL. His physicality and strength will be very useful against a big Capitals team.

The Rangers and the Capitals will face off at 7 PM at Madison Square Garden. The game will be broadcasted on MSG Network.

EXPECTED LINES

Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Jesper Fast

Oscar Lindberg-Kevin Hayes-Viktor Stalberg

Jarret Stoll-Dominic Moore-JT Miller

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Kevin Klein

Keith Yandle-Dylan McIlrath

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on November 3, 2015, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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