Originally written on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 11/25/11

It's amazing to me that we are almost two months into the season and today will be the very first time the Rangers and Capitals square off this year. The last time these two met was back in April at the Verizon Center for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, which the Rangers lost to be eliminated from the playoffs. Having played each other twice in the playoffs over the past three years, New York and Washington have developed somewhat of a rivalry between each other, s0 this afternoon's match will have a little added emotion to it than the last two the Rangers have played in. 

But maybe that added emotion is what the Blueshirts need, because they struggled to "get up" for their previous two games against the Montreal Canadiens and Florida Panthers, both of which they lost. They were outskated, outshot - they were pretty much beaten in every aspect of the game. The coach has made it very clear to his team that their effort against the Habs and Cats was unacceptable and that a lot more will be needed out of everyone today versus the Capitals. 

The Caps, though, have struggled a bit themselves since their solid undefeated streak to begin the season. They've only managed to win four of their last ten games, however they have been winners in the two prior contests leading up to today. They expect the Rangers to really bring it this afternoon, though, and that seems to be a concern of their coach.

“I am, but I don’t know if it’s because of the playoffs thing,” said Bruce Boudreau when asked if he expects the Rangers to have extra jump. “I think it’s because they lost and their coach is pretty fiery and they don’t like losing two in a row. And they were probably a little rusty. They had like a week off going into [Wednesday’s] game. So they’ll probably be better suited for [Friday’s] game." - Boudreau to NHL.com

We hope that is the case, because if the Rangers come out flat against this Washington team at their place, New York is in deep trouble. Maybe the fact that they beat the Caps three out of four times last season will give them a little extra motivation, especially since two of those games were 7-0 and 6-0 deficits. 

Brad Richards made a good point when talking about the Rangers' transition game yesterday, as he said the lack of puck possession and offense starts with the defense. In other words, the Rangers have been chasing the puck around too much in their own zone, are unable to obtain control, and if they do, they have no choice but to dump it out, defeating any hope of breaking out. It's crucial that the Rangers keep the Caps to the outside today and force them into taking low percentage shots, or better yet, turnovers. 

This, in turn, would enable the offense to create more odd-man rushes and scoring chances on the fly, which is where the Rangers have been most successful this season. Just look at Derek Stepan's goal against Florida; McDonagh made the defensive play, Gaborik carried in, and Stepan ended up scoring as the trailer. It all started in the D zone and quickly transitioned into a scoring chance. The Rangers need to do more of that today. 

As far as the lineup goes, expect to see some changes on the bottom offensive line. Andre Deveaux will be handed his suspension for the high elbow on Tomas Fleischman sometime today, so in preparation the Rangers have recalled forwards John Mitchell and Carl Hagelin from the AHL, as reported here yesterday. By the sound of it, Mitchell will almost certainly be in the lineup this afternoon and Hagelin is a question mark as of now. If Tortorella elects to play both, someone currently in the lineup will be a healthy scratch in order to make room. 

Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start in goal after a marvelous 36-save performance against the Panthers on Wednesday night, but let's hope he is given a little more support in this one than he was the other day. Hank always seems to bring out the very best in him against the Caps. 

New York Rangers Lineup

TBA

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