I’m headed over to this mini-training camp the Rangers are forced to endure because the NHL scheduled their four days off between games.
Will have audio interviews (fingers crossed, new audio system which works on your phone), possibly some video, definitely some reports (Twitter: @RangersReport).
Later today I will put up a predictions contest thread, entries due before Game 1 of the series which begin tonight.
Meanwhile, here’s my story from today’s Journal News and LoHud.com.
By Rick Carpiniello
GREENBURGH – They’ve done this dance before, the Rangers and Washington Capitals, back to the days when Mike Gartner was still a Cap in 1986, to the Rangers’ flameouts in 1990 and 1991 that ushered in the Mark Messier era, to 1994, when Esa Tikkanen kissed Keith Jones’ nose, and of course now for the fourth time in five years.
The Rangers and Caps – after a ridiculous four-day layoff – get together again starting in D.C. Thursday and Saturday, as two of the hotter teams in the NHL, almost a year since they tangoed through seven crazy games including a triple-overtime Game 3 Rangers victory.
“I think it definitely helps for the guys who were here last year and a few years before that,” said Dan Girardi, who will be seeing a whole lotta Alex Ovechkin, the NHL’s leading goal-scorer after a terribly slow start to the season. “But every year’s different.”
These teams are different than last year, the Rangers losing most of their rugged identity in the summer, then regaining some of it at the trade deadline; the Capitals, with new coach Adam Oates rekindling Ovechkin’s fire. They are different, even, than they were when they met three times during the season (the Rangers winning two).
“I don’t know how much (the history) matters because they’ve changed a lot over the years, the way they play,” Henrik Lundqvist said. “We changed our team a little bit. It’s the same team name, but it’s a different look, especially when I look at them the four or five years here. It’s all about offense, then all about defense and now it’s in the middle. But they’re a team where you have to respect a lot of things about their game, especially their offense, their top guys.”
Already there’s been some yapping from the Capitals side. Joel Ward, who committed the double-minor that turned a Capitals Game 5 win into a tying power-play goal by Brad Richards with eight seconds left in regulation and an overtime game-winner by Marc Staal, is vowing revenge. Nick Backstrom is saying that the Capitals were the better team in last year’s series.
“We’re not going to start a war of words,” Girardi responded. “There’s no use for that. It doesn’t matter what happened last year or a couple years before that. They’re playing really well now going into the playoffs and I think we had a really solid April as well, so two teams at the top of their games. It’s going to be quite the series, I think, and just like last year – hard fought, a lot of hitting, just pretty much a little bit of everything.”
Girardi was the victim of an unpunished Ovechkin elbow to the head during last spring’s series, as well. He and Ryan McDonagh might be split up, as they were late in the season, instead of together, so that one will always be on the ice with Ovechkin.
“We’ll have our hands full with him,” Girardi said. “He’s playing really well right now.”
The other Rangers defenseman with a history against Ovechkin, Marc Staal, hasn’t ruled himself out for later in the series as he recovers from an eye injury and blurred vision. The Rangers also hope that Ryane Clowe (probable concussion), Brian Boyle (knee) and Derek Dorsett (broken clavicle) might return during the series.