Capitals-Rangers Preview

The New York Rangers lost two of three on their recent road trip

but added a scorer who could play a role in rescuing them from an

offensive drought.

They’ll need plenty of help to keep pace with the Washington

Capitals.

Fresh off setting a franchise record with their 11th straight

win, the Capitals look to extend their streak Thursday night at

Madison Square Garden against the punchless Rangers.

New York (25-25-7) averages 2.49 goals per game to rank among

the league’s bottom five clubs, and the addition of Olli Jokinen in

a trade with Calgary late Monday night ties the former No. 3

overall pick for third on the team with 11 goals.

Washington (38-12-6) has nine players with 11 or more goals.

While the Rangers have scored nine over their past six games while

going 0-5-1, the Capitals have totaled 51 goals during their

11-game win streak.

Alex Ovechkin’s empty netter Tuesday in Boston was the Capitals’

third goal of the third period, as they turned a tie game after 40

minutes into a 4-1 victory that eclipsed the franchise-record

winning streak of 10 games set 26 years ago.

“Everybody is pretty proud of it,” said Mike Knuble, who scored

for the ninth time in 10 games. “It’s something to talk about. We

know it’s not going to last forever, but it’s a great thing to be a

part of.”

Knuble has benefited from playing on the top line with Ovechkin

and Nicklas Backstrom, who have combined for 14 goals and 20

assists during the winning streak.

The Capitals’ second line has been extremely effective as well.

Alexander Semin, Tomas Fleischmann and Brooks Laich have 14 goals

and 21 assists during the streak, and Semin has a 10-game point

streak – the longest by a Washington player this season.

The Capitals will surpass the 2007-08 San Jose Sharks for the

league’s longest post-lockout winning streak with a win

Thursday.

“It’s nice to have streaks and stuff,” said defenseman Tom Poti,

“but we have bigger dreams and bigger goals.”

While Washington is starting to run away in the race for the

Eastern Conference’s top seed, the Rangers have dropped into a tie

for eighth.

Jokinen had four shots in his debut Tuesday at Los Angeles, but

New York’s only goal came from Marian Gaborik late in the third

period of a 2-1 loss.

Though Gaborik ranks fourth in the NHL with 34 goals – two

behind Ovechkin for third – the Rangers have scored two times or

fewer 10 times in their past 14 games.

New York hasn’t scored a power-play goal in seven straight

games, its worst drought since a nine-game stretch from Oct.

20-Nov. 11, 1999.

“We’re OK. We have to be OK,” coach John Tortorella said. “You

can’t be dragging your head around and being down about it. … We

need to be professionals, learn, and get ready to play another

game.”

Gaborik, for one, should feel confident facing the Capitals.

He’s scored two goals in each of New York’s two games versus

Washington, with each team winning on the other’s home ice.

The Capitals are 6-1-1 in the last eight meetings, with Ovechkin

totaling six goals and four assists.

Henrik Lundqvist is 2-2-2 with a 3.69 goals-against average in

his last six matchups with Washington, and he has a 3.66 GAA during

a personal five-game losing streak.