New York Rangers vs. Washington Capitals, 6:30 PM at Madison Square Garden
Where To Watch: NBC Sports Network
Where To Listen: 1050 ESPN Radio, and newyorkrangers.com
Live In-Game Chat: 6:15 PM on Blueshirts United.com
In what could very well be a preview of their first round plyaoff series, the Rangers (51-23-7, 109 pts) host the Capitals (41-32-8, 90 pts) tonight at The Garden to close out the 2011-12 regular season. With the Rangers locked into first place in the Eastern Conference, and the Caps currently sitting in 8th place, these two teams could very well end iup meeting in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight season---and for the third time in the last four years. However, depending upon tonight's Rangers-Caps result---as well as other teams' results---Washington could end up in third place---by virtue of winning the Southeast Division, seventh place or eigth place in the East. By the end of the evening the Rangers will know if the Caps, Senators, or Panthers will be there first round playoff opponent. In addition, a victory this evening would clinch first place overall in the National Hockey League---and the President Trophy---for the Rangers, a feat they have not accomplished since the Stanley Cup winning season of 1993-94. The Rangers are unsure if they will have the services of Derek Stepan against the Caps tonight. Stepan was hurt late in the third period of Thursday's 5-2 loss in Pittsburgh when kneed by Brooks Orpik, and did not practice on Friday. Despite a sore right arm, suffered in Tuesday's 5-3 win in Philadelphia, Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start the season finale in goal for the Blueshirts. Lundqvist had started ten in a row before Martin Biron was between the pipes Thursday night. Washington has issues of its own with the goalie position. Veteran Tomas Vokoun is sidelined by a groin injury, and now Michal Neuvirth is likely out after suffering a lower body injury Thursday night. It is quite possible that third-stringer Braden Holtby will get the call tonight, with 31 year old Dany Sabourin---just recalled from the AHL---serving as the backup. The Rangers enter play having won seven of their last ten games, while the Caps have won three of their last four.
This is the fourth and final meeting this season between the Rangers and Capitals. The Rangers have won two of the first three games, including the only one played at Madison Square Garden---a 3-2 victory on February 12th in which Brandon Prust's shorthanded goal turned out to be the game-winner. Ryan Callahan leads the Blueshirts with five points (1-4-5) in three games vs. the Caps so far this season.
"We want to win (this) hockey game. It's our last game before we really get going, and I think there is a little bit of incentive there (with the Presidents Trophy). The (players) want to win the hockey game, including me."-John Tortorella
By The Numbers
The Rangers currently have 51 wins and 109 points on the season. A victory tonight would equal the franchise record of 52 set in 1993-94, boosting their point total to 111---one shy of the franchise high-water mark set that very same season.
As for personal goals: Ryan Callahan is one goal shy of his first 30-goal season; Marian Gaborik is one goal shy of equaling his career-best of 42; and Henrik Lundqvist is one victory short of reaching the 40-win plateau for the first time in his career.
Will tonight be a Presidents Trophy winning night for the Blueshirts? Share your predictions below.