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Everything you need to know about Caps-Rangers

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Everything you need to know about Caps-Rangers

NEW YORK - News, notes and quotes as the Capitals and Rangers tee it up for Game 1 of their second-round playoff series tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Madison Square Garden:

Marty for Zuc: With Rangers top-line right wing Mats Zuccarello reportedly out for the entire second round with a head injury, 39-year-old veteran Marty St. Louis will take his place on a top line with Rick Nash and Derrick Brassard.

St. Louis had 21 goals in the regular season but was held to just one assist against the Penguins in the first round. In 93 career playoff games he has 41 goals and 43 assists for 84 points.

St. Louis has terrorized the Caps in his 16-year career with 31 goals and 53 assists for 84 points in 77 career games against Washington.

“You can plug him anywhere in the lineup the way he competes,” said caps defenseman Brooks Orpik, who will be playing in his 100th career playoff game tonight. “He’s always kind of had a chip on his shoulder. I remember when he was in [University of] Vermont, people said he was too small to play in college and he still has a little bit of that left in him, proving people wrong.”

St. Louis, who is generously listed at 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, said he’s looking forward to facing Orpik, who is 6-foot-2, 219. Well, sort of.

“He’s got experience, he’s a physical player, good stick,” St. Louis. “He’s a guy that defends well.”

No rest for weary: The Capitals will be playing in their eighth game in 17 days, while the Rangers will be playing for the first time in six days. Will it make a difference?

“We earned that rest and it let some guys get back to where they need to be,” St. Louis said.

One of those players is smooth skating defenseman Kevin Klein, who has not played since an Alex Ovechkin slapshot broke his left arm on March 11.

“We’re pretty antsy,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “You’re watching these series go six or seven games and you’re watching the intensity. We’re happy the game is finally here.”

Friendly foes: Capitals right wing Tom Wilson and Rangers right wing J.T. Miller were linemates together with the OHL Plymouth Whalers in 2011-12. Miller was taken by the Rangers with the 15th pick overall in the 2011 NHL draft. Wilson was taken by the Caps with the 16th overall pick one year later.

Miller said he remains good friends with Wilson and took exception to Wilson being labeled a dirty player.

“No, he plays a physical game, he plays hard,” Miller said. “When he gets a chance to be on the ice he’s trying to make his presence known. He likes to lay the big hits, but he’s a good player and I don’t expect him to slow down at all.”

Big bang theory: After the Caps and Isles combined for 630 hits in Round 1 it is highly unlikely this series ramps up to that same kind of physicality. The Rangers delivered 172 hits in their five-game series against the Penguins, while the Caps dished out 313 body blows.

“We’ve got a big group of forwards and you ask our D, if they get the puck and get hit all the time they’re going to get worn out,” said right wing Jason Chimera, whose 21 hits rank fourth on the Caps behind Orpik [41], Alex Ovechkin [31] and Wilson [21]. “Look at [Islanders defensemen Nick] Leddy and [Johnny] Boychuk. They weren’t jumping up in the rush because they were so tired of getting hit. You want to impose your will on guys like that and you want to hit some of their better players like [defensemen Keith] Yandle and [Dan] Girardi and [Ryan] McDonagh.”

Fehr update: Caps center Eric Fehr, knocked out of Game 3 against the Islanders with an upper body check suffered on a check by Kyle Okposo, skated on his own Thursday and Caps coach Barry Trotz said he's "very close" to returning to the lineup. 

MORE CAPITALS: Trotz compares Ovechkin to Rangers great

Here are projected lineups for Game 1:

CAPITALS

Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Joel Ward

Marcus Johnasson – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Jason Chimera

Andre Burakovsky – Jay Beagle – Troy Brouwer

Curtis Glencross – Brooks Laich – Tom Wilson

Defense pairings

Brooks Orpik – John Carlson

Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen

Tim Gleason – Mike Green

Goaltenders

Braden Holtby – Justin Peters

Scratches: C Michael Latta, D Dmitry Orlov

Injuries: Eric Fehr [upper body, day-to-day]

RANGERS

Forward lines

Rick Nash – Derrick Brassard – Marty St. Louis

Chris Kreider – Derek Stepan – J.T. Miller

Carl Hagelin – Kevin Hayes – Jesper Fast

James Sheppard – Dominic Moore – Tanner Glass

Defense pairings

Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi

Marc Staal – Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle – Kevin Klein

Goaltenders

Henrik Lundqvist – Cam Talbot

Scratches: D Matt Hunwick, D Chris Summers

Injuries: RW Mats Zuccarello [head, indefinite]

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On the move? Why moving up or down in the 1st round of the draft is a realistic possibility for the Caps

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On the move? Why moving up or down in the 1st round of the draft is a realistic possibility for the Caps

The NHL draft is fast approaching. The first round will take place on Friday and it could be a busy night for the Capitals.

Washington currently holds the 25th pick in the draft. It will be the highest pick this team has had since taking Ilya Samsonov 22nd overall in the 2015 draft. The question, however, is will they stay there?

The more you look at the team’s situation, the more a move in either direction looks like a realistic possibility for the Caps. Here’s why.

Why the Caps could move up

In most situations, an NHL team should pick the best player available. Since most NHL prospects, including most players taken in the first round, will take years to develop before they see NHL action, it does not generally make sense to draft for an immediate need. When teams become fixated on drafting a certain position, it can lead to those teams passing on elite talent at other positions.

For Washington, however, they no longer can afford to ignore the team’s need for a difference-maker at forward.

You have to go all the way back to 2014 to find the last time the Caps drafted a forward in the first round when they drafted Jakub Vrana. Since then, however, they have drafted a goalie, two defensemen and have traded out of the first round completely.

The dearth of forward talent among the team’s prospects is starting to catch up to it. In a year in which the Caps need forward depth but have very little money to fill it, an ideal solution would be to plug any holes on the bottom six with cheap prospects.

Without any top-end forwards in the system, however, that is not really an option.

Riley Barber (sixth-round pick) is an unrestricted free agent and said he does not see himself re-signing with Washington. Nathan Walker (third-round pick) is also a UFA and, though he sounded more open to re-signing with the Caps than Barber, there is no guarantee he does not leave in free agency. Shane Gersich (fifth-round pick) and Garrett Pilon (third-round pick) still look like they need another year in Hershey. Axel Jonsson-Fjallby (fifth-round pick) has a whopping 16 games of North American experience and it is hard to know what exactly to expect from him. Kody Clark (second-round pick) and Riley Sutter (third-round pick) still need time to develop.

This team needs a high-end forward prospect, if not for this year then for the near future. It needs that guy who can infuse a bit of youth and excitement, as well as skill, back into the lineup when he gets a call-up. We are not talking about the next Connor McDavid here, just a top-six forward to add to the system because right now it does not appear Washington really has any top-six forwards besides the guys already in the NHL.

That needs to change.

There is value to be found late in the first round of the draft—Marcus Johansson was taken 24th overall in 2009, Evgeny Kuznetsov was 26th overall in 2010 and Andre Burakovsky was 23rd overall in 2013 just to name a few—but waiting for a good forward to drop into their laps this year may not be the ideal strategy knowing they need to pick a forward in the first round.

Moving up the draft will ensure they can grab one of the top forwards available. If they move up high enough, perhaps they could even snap someone who could potentially be ready to help the team in the latter half of the season, though that is a lot to ask of a young forward.

The point is Washington cannot afford to go with the usual “best available” mentality and see who falls to 25. General manager Brian MacLellan will have to get proactive and move up to ensure he gets the best available player at the position of need. We may not be talking Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko, but even moving up to the mid-round can dramatically affect the quality of prospects available.

Why the Caps could move down

Elliotte Friedman had an interesting note on the Caps in his latest 31 Thoughts column. He listed Washington among one of the most aggressive teams in trade talks saying generally of the NHL “we could see some frenetic attempts to move up and down.”

Friedman also wrote, “Other teams believe the Capitals are in total ‘go for it’ mode.”

When a team is in “go for It mode” and trying to win a Cup, the first-round draft pick can be useful trade bait to help bring in a significant piece and bolster the roster. Granted, Washington has very little cap room available so any trade would likely include sending salary with the pick which would, in turn, lower the value of return, but this team is just one year removed from winning the Cup. It is not as if they need to make a major addition to be a contender.

Trading away a first-round pick would be the exact opposite of addressing the team’s need for high-end prospect forward talent as written above, but it is hard to build a team for now and for the future. With Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Co. all in their 30s, it would be understandable why MacLellan would choose to go all-in on winning another Cup in the next few years.

Whether the Caps move up, down or stand pat, we will have all the latest analysis on NBC Sports Washington’s coverage of the draft starting at 8 p.m. on Friday.

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The Capitals were mentioned on Jeopardy! and of course we're proud of it

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The Capitals were mentioned on Jeopardy! and of course we're proud of it

The Stanley Cup no longer resides in Washington, and all eyes have shifted toward the offseason as the Capitals look to retool for next season. But, that doesn't mean we can't stop and appreciate the magical 2018 season now and again.

A week after reminiscing about the championship run and ensuing parade, the famous game show "Jeopardy!" gave us one more moment of glory on Monday night.

One of the clues featured in the latest episode had the Capitals as the answer and even featured Alexander Ovechkin.

It appears that one of the contestants did answer it correctly. More importantly, according to the replies, it was also cleared up that no one brought up the Pittsburgh Penguins during that round. 

While it may be somewhat hard to cope with the fact that the Capitals will not be enjoying another offseason of championship partying in 2019 we can take pride in the fact that the question was about the Caps winning the Stanley Cup, and not centered around a dreaded title drought.

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