The Caps take on the New York Rangers on Saturday (2 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Washington) with a chance to reclaim first place in the Metropolitan Division.
Here’s what you need to watch when these two rivals meet in New York.
Battle of the backups…maybe
Both the Caps and Rangers played on Friday and both used their top netminders so it would stand to reason that we could see both teams go with their backups for Saturday’s game.
Pheonix Copley has a record of 7-4-2 this season with a .899 save percentage and 3.07 GAA. He played admirably in place of Holtby while he was dealing with an upper-body injury and really cemented himself as the team’s backup. For the Rangers, their backup is the 22-year-old Alexander Georgiev who holds a record of 4-2-0 with a .911 save percentage and 2.94 GAA.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There is still a chance one or both coaches could bring back their starters on Saturday.
Reirden was asked whether or not Copley would start on Saturday prior to Friday’s contest and was very non-committal, saying that was the plan but that he would reevaluate after the game. Rangers head coach David Quinn, meanwhile, elected to play Lundqvist both nights of a back-to-back the last time New York faced the Caps on the second leg on Oct. 17.
It should be Copley vs. Georgiev, it probably will be Copley vs. Georgiev, but it certainly is not out of the realm of possibility that one or both coaches elect to go with their starters, both of whom have been playing very well of late.
The Tom Wilson return tour continues
Wilson has been an absolute beast since his return from suspension. Most notably has been his offense as he has been producing at over a point per game pace. In just six games, Wilson already has three goals and eight points. That more points than other forward who have been available all season such as Andre Burakovsky, Devante Smith-Pelly, Chandler Stephenson, Nic Dowd and Dmitrij Jaskin.
The Caps get a noticeable boost in energy whenever Wilson is on the ice. Until he cools down, he is someone you have to keep an eye on because he makes an impact in every aspect of the game whether it be even strength, on the power play or the penalty kill and both offensively and defensively.
Home ice advantage
This year was supposed to be a wash for the Rangers who are in the midst of a rebuild, but New York is surpassing everyone’s expectations with how well they have played thus far, particularly at home.
The Rangers are in the midst of a seven-game win streak at Madison Square Garden and are 9-3-0 overall at home this season.
The Caps have been fairly average on the road at 5-4-1, but have won three of their last four and enter Saturday’s game on a four-game win streak overall.
A battle for first place
The Caps currently sit in second place of the Metropolitan Division with 27 points, just one behind the Columbus Blue Jackets. A win Saturday would obviously vault them over Columbus for first place. An overtime or shootout loss would pull the Caps into a tie, but the Blue Jackets would retain first place with one more regulation or overtime win over Washington (12-11).
Should New York beat the Caps in regulation, the Rangers would vault over Washington for second place, pushing the Caps down to third.
It’s only November so we should not look too much into the standings, but it is always a confidence boost for a team to say it’s in first place. When your opponent has a chance to vault you in the standings with a win, it also could add just a bit of juice to what would otherwise be a regular November matinee game.
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