Posted November 24, 2011 on AP on Fox
The Washington Capitals made quick work of the New York Rangers in last season's Eastern Conference playoffs. Recent regular-season matchups have yielded much different results. The Capitals and Rangers meet for the first time since the 2010-11 postseason on Friday in D.C. Washington eliminated New York in five games of their first-round series in which the teams combined for only 21 goals with four contests being decided by a single score. The Rangers hope Friday's meeting turns out similar to the final three regular-season matchups, when they outscored the Capitals 14-1 in winning each game. They may need an improved effort if things are to go as planned, however. New York has lost two straight following a seven-game winning streak, falling 4-0 to Montreal on Saturday and 2-1 to Florida on Wednesday. Derek Stepan scored the lone goal, while Henrik Lundqvist made 36 saves. Wednesday marked only the second game in eight days for the Rangers (10-5-3), who are concluding a four-game road trip. Coach John Tortorella refused to blame the extended layoffs, but rather the execution of his squad. "No, I don't think so - then we're just looking for excuses," he said. "We just have to stay together, just as we did when we were winning. "I thought we were winning hockey games when we were staying within our team concept. I think it's getting away from us a bit in some of the details of the game." Lundqvist lost for the first time in six starts and has a 1.82 goals-against average in that span. He's shut out the Capitals in his last two regular-season starts against them, making 31 saves in a 7-0 win Dec. 12 and 35 in a 6-0 victory Feb. 25. Washington, meanwhile, has won two straight following a four-game skid. The Capitals (12-7-1) are coming off back-to-back 4-3 victories, beating Phoenix on Monday and Winnipeg on Wednesday. Jason Chimera scored twice against the Jets - including in overtime - while Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin added a goal each. Chimera has a team-leading eight goals, which seems surprising given the offensive weapons like Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin on the roster. "He's on one of those rolls where he hasn't been in a while," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I am pretty happy for him because he is a guy that comes in, he works every day, he's always got a smile on his face, he keeps the team loose. It is good to see good things happen to good people." Chimera, who hasn't registered a point in his last eight games against New York, is almost halfway to his career-high 17 goals scored in 2005-06 while playing 80 games for Columbus. Ovechkin, meanwhile, has been on the decline. He hasn't scored a goal and has only two assists and a minus-4 rating in his last six games. He had three goals and three assists in the playoff series versus the Rangers but has two assists in his last five regular-season games against them. Washington expects to have forward Joel Ward back in the lineup Friday. Ward overslept for a team meeting Tuesday and was a healthy scratch Wednesday as a disciplinary action.
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