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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Rangers


AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Rangers

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.


Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams

Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

Brooks Laich - Michael Latta - Andre Burakovsky

Defense pairs

Nate Schmidt - John Carlson

Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner

Dmitry Orlov - Taylor Chorney


Braden Holtby (starter)  - Philipp Grubauer

Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body)

Scratched Stan GalievConnor Carrick


Forward lines

Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - J.T. Miller

Oscar Lindberg - Kevin Hayes - Emerson Etem

Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Jesper Fast

Defense pairs

Marc Staal - Ryan McDonagh

Keith Yandle - Dylan McIlrath

Chris Summers - Dan Boyle


Henrik Lundqvist (starter)  Magnus Hellberg

Injured: Dan Girardi (knee), Antti Raanta (head), Kevin Klein (oblique)

Scratched: Viktor Stalberg

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Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

The Capitals may have won the game Friday against the New York Islanders, but now they will wait to see if they also suffered a significant loss.

Kuznetsov left the game in the third period after taking a slash from Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey which sent him sliding head-first into the boards. The team labeled the issue as “upper body” when it was announced he would not return to the game.

Head coach Barry Trotz was tight-lipped afterward on Kuznetsov’s status.

“They're going to re-evaluate him tomorrow and we'll have some clarity hopefully tomorrow,” he said.


You can see the play here:

When Kuznetsov is first slashed he immediately reacts. His feet then catch the stick of goalie Jaroslav Halak which sends him tripping and sliding hard into the boards. He sat on the ice for several minutes afterward and was looked at by the trainer before getting to his feet and slowly making his way to the locker room.

When asked after the game what he felt about the slash, Trotz said only, “Hockey play.”

One of the Capitals’ biggest strengths as a team is their depth down the middle. Any injury to a center, considering it is arguably the most important skating position on the ice, would be significant. An injury to the team’s top-line center would be even more costly.

Kuznetsov leads the team with 28 assists and ranks second in both goals (21) and points (69).

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3 stars of the game: Caps win brutal rematch to sweep home-and-home with Islanders

3 stars of the game: Caps win brutal rematch to sweep home-and-home with Islanders

The Caps rocked the green in warmups, the red for the game and left a bit black and blue after a brutal 6-3 win over the New York Islanders.

Based on how things went in Brooklyn on Thursday, odds were that there would be some bad blood when the two teams met Washington on Friday. One night after giving up seven goals, the Islanders gave up another six in Washington and frustrations over a rough season boiled over all game long.

Ross Johnston was ejected for continuing to fight Tom Wilson even after the referees intervened, both teams combined for 56 PIMs and Evgeny Kuznetsov left the game in the second period after a slash from Thomas Hickey as he went headfirst into the boards.

The sting of the rough night was mitigated somewhat, however, by the 6-3 score as the Caps won their fourth straight.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Alex Chiasson: Playing in his first game since March 8, Chiasson made the most of his opportunity with a three-point night. Jakub Vrana did the legwork as he drove the net with the puck. Jaroslav Halak stuck out his stick catching Vrana which spun the netminder around and out of the crease. Chiasson came up behind for the easy layup.

He would repay the favor with an assist for Vrana's goal later in the third. Chiasson's first assist on the night came in the second period as his initial shot was saved, but he stayed in the face of Halak long enough to prevent him from making the save on Matt Niskanen's goal.

2. Nicklas Backstrom: When things were getting ugly, Backstrom made the Islanders pay with a power play goal on the two-man advantage.

After Johnston lost his marbles and Cal Clutterbuck was called for interference on Oshie, the Capitals needed to take advantage and put the Islanders away or watch New York build momentum. That was the critical juncture of the game. Backstrom also added an assist on the two-point night.

3. Braden Holtby: The recent struggles of Holtby have been well documented. After yielding the crease to Philipp Grubauer the last four games, Holtby got the start on Friday and played very well in the winning effort. The defense in front of him certainly helped allowing only 13 shots in the first two periods, but the Islanders were buzzing in the third period. New York battled back to make it 5-3 and Mathew Barzal had a breakaway opportunity with a chance to cut the deficit to one. Holtby made the save to deny Barzal and shut the door on the comeback attempt.

In all, Holtby turned aside 22 of the 25 shots he faced.