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Game 7: Caps ready for puck to drop

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Game 7: Caps ready for puck to drop

Every kid who has ever held a hockey stick in his hand has imagined nights like tonight.

Game 7. A playoff season on the line. On quite possibly the biggest stage in the world.

At 7:30 p.m. tonight the lights will dim at Madison Square Garden, John Amirante will step onto the carpet for the national anthem and it will be difficult to keep your heart from jumping out of your chest.

You cant beat it, said Capitals left wing Jason Chimera when asked to describe the emotions that will fill every player before tonights seventh and deciding game of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Capitals and New York Rangers.

The nervousness, the anxiety. You want to get out there and do some stuff. You want to prove yourself, get out there and help the team out as much as you can.

You know its on NBC, CBC and everyones going to be watching. Its in New York. You cant beat it. Its a big stage. Its fun. It sounds corny, but when youre a little kid you always dream of these moments and you dream that the pucks on your stick and youre scoring that goal. Its one of those games you could re-live a lot of dreams.

Game 7 has been a mixed bag for many of these Capitals. Since first making the playoffs in 2008, the core group of Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom has played in five Game Sevens and has won two.

In 2008, the Caps lost 3-2 in overtime at home against the Flyers. In 2009 they beat the Rangers at home 2-1 in Round 1, then lost Game 7 at home to the Penguins 6-2 in Round 2. The Caps also lost Game 7 at home to the Canadiens 2-1 in 2010. And on March 25 they beat the Bruins in Boston in Game 7 by a 2-1 score.

Theyve been on both sides of it, Chimera said. Youre not so nervous going into it. Thats a good thing. You can start a little better. Youre not just waiting to see what happens. Youre going to go get it instead of just wait around. So I think thats a big thing. Weve got to go get it. You cant just wait around for something to happen.

So how is a Game 7 different than any other playoff game?

Its much different because two teams know one is going to lose, the season is going to be over for them, said Ovechkin, who has two goals and two assists in five career Game Sevens. I hope luck is going to be on our side.

Ovechkin believes the Capitals experience with Game Sevens should allow them to embrace the pressure that comes with tonights game. The Capitals have not reached the third round of the playoffs since Ovechkins arrival.

Im going to enjoy it a lot, actually, he said. Its best time of the year right now. Were in the second round and we play against the New York Rangers in their home and its going to be fun and its going to be very important game for us. Were 100 percent in.

In their Game 7 against Boston, the Caps and Bruins played a very patient, methodical game before Joel Ward won it in overtime. Many expect a similar tight-checking game tonight against the Rangers.

Weve played 13 games absolutely the same way so a 14th game like the other ones would be pretty typical for us, Mike Knuble said. I think thats comforting us going into a Game 7, that you know how your team is going to play. There are no what ifs, theres no wondering or having to keep your fingers crossed. Its just go out and play and play the way we have been playing, get the final break and win the game.

Ward, who has experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows during these playoffs, said that after two full days of talking hes ready to decide things on the ice.

Just drop the puck, he said. I think were just kind of a little bit antsy. We just want to get er going. We know what were up against. Its a building that weve been in before and were just excited for the opportunity that we have in front of us.

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NHL Power Rankings: A rough week

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Power Rankings: A rough week

The Caps are coming off of one of, if not the worst week of their season. Washington has now lost three of four games and all three of those losses came in devastating fashion.

On Feb. 11, the Caps hosted a scuffling Detroit Red Wings team and saw the Wings build a 4-1 lead in the second period, a period in which the Caps were outshot 17-2. Washington battled back to tie the game, but ultimately lost in overtime. Tuesday in Winnipeg the Caps held a 3-1 lead in the third period, but allowed the Jets to mount a comeback and tie the game with just 15 seconds remaining in regulation before losing in overtime. Then, of course, there was Saturday's 7-1 blowout at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that had lost eight straight coming into that game.

SEE THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

To make matters worse, the Pittsburgh Penguins keep on winning and now hold a one-point lead over Washington. So yeah, things were not great.

The bad news is that, with the recent surges of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and even New Jersey, the Caps have to figure things out fast or they could continue to fall in the standings fairly quickly.

The good news is that they still remain in a relatively good position should they rebound. The Penguins do hold a one-point lead in the standings, but the Caps remain very much in the driver's seat of the division with three games in hand.

Four games separate Washington from the Feb. 26 trade deadline. The Caps will play in Buffalo, host Tampa Bay, play in Florida and host Buffalo. Winning three of those four games, especially if they can beat the dominant Lightning, will go a long way towards putting last week in the rearview mirror. Another tough week, however, could force the hand of general manager Brian MacLellan to make an unanticipated move at the trade deadline in order to keep a playoff season from falling apart.

After a week like that, it's no surprise to see Washington fall in this week's NHL Power Rankings. You can see the full rankings here.

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Game 59: Capitals at Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 59: Capitals at Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres

Where: KeyBank Center, Buffalo, N.Y.

When: 3:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Sabres will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Sabres game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

You can also stream the game online with no cable TV subscription on fuboTV (try for free!).

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals (33-18-7) take on the Sabres (17-31-11) Monday, February 19 at 3:00 p.m. ET in Buffalo.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME ON?

The Capitals-Sabres game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 2:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 2:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 6:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 7:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

2:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
2:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
3:00 p.m. — Capitals at Sabres
5:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
6:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
7:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Sabres game:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Defensemen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey

Philipp Grubauer starts with Braden Holtby as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Taylor Chorney

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals-Sabres game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

The game is also available to stream, along with all the pregame and postgame shows, on fuboTV (try for free).

CAPITALS-SABRES OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.