NEW YORK – The Capitals (23-6-2, 48 points) will look to make it five wins in a row when they visit the New York Rangers (19-11-4, 42 points), who have lost four of their last five, at Madison Square Garden. Catch all the action on CSN. Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:
Bounce back game: Caps goalie Braden Holtby (20-4-1, 1.92 GAA, .931 SP) is making his first start since being pulled after allowing three goals on 12 shots in Friday night’s 5-3 comeback win over the Lightning.
“He’s been resilient,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said. “I pulled Braden not because he played poorly. I pulled Braden to say to the rest of the group, ‘You can’t rely on this guy game in and game out.’ I put the onus on them. They responded with a comeback win.”
Holtby’s worst statistical game of the season came in the Caps’ last visit to MSG on Nov. 3 when he allowed five goals on 22 shots in a 5-2 defeat.
“Braden needs a bounce back game in this building,” Trotz said. “Last time he was here I don’t think he was really sharp.”
Ovi good to go: Caps captain Alex Ovechkin will play despite leaving practice early on Saturday after Trotz said he “tweaked” something.
In the Caps’ last meeting, Rangers defenseman Marc Staal was caught on camera spearing Alex Ovechkin between the legs in the first period, without a penalty.
“It's a hockey game, it's physical,” Ovechkin said after that game, in whch he led the Caps with eight shots and eight hits. “Obviously, he don't want to get hit. If you want to hit (back), do it the right way.”
With defenseman Dan Girardi sitting out his fourth straight game, Staal will be asked to shut down Ovechkin on a top defensive pairing with Ryan McDonagh.
Up in the air: Trotz said his decision on a starting goaltender for the Caps’ visit to the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday will be influenced by tonight’s game.
Originally. Trotz planned on starting Holtby against the Rangers and Philipp Grubauer against the Hurricanes. That may have been altered by Holtby seeing just 28:57 of action in Thursday night’s win.
“With him playing limited minutes it opens the door to see how this game goes,” Trotz said.
Last time we met: Holtby allowed four goals on the first 10 shots he faced and the Caps never recovered in the 5-2 loss. The Caps outshot the Rangers 34-21 and Trotz said his team outchanced New York “by a very wide margin,” but that’s because they were chasing the game most of the night.
“It’s not necessarily what you get, it’s what you leave,” Trotz said. “And what you leave the Rangers sometimes they capitalize.”
Caps defenseman John Carlson was a minus-3 in the loss to the Rangers.
Comeback kids: The Caps are the only team in the NHL with a winning record (4-3-1) when trailing after two periods.
“This team plays better when it’s urgent,” Trotz said. “There’s a good belief.”
Rangers notebook: Rangers center Oscar Lindberg (10 goals, 7 assists) is expected to return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch in New York’s 5-2 loss in Winnipeg. Lindberg has gone six games without a goal. Defenseman Kevin Klein will miss his 10th straight game with an oblique injury. The Rangers are 2-5-2 without Klein in the lineup and 3-8-2 in their last 11.
Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body)
Scratched: Viktor Stalberg