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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, December 27th (All times Eastern)
New York Rangers (18-18-2) at Washington Capitals (19-14-4), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The New York Rangers were able to put a positive spin on a rough homestand by winning the last two games of the residency. The Blueshirts will aim for their first three-game winning streak in well over a month when they visit the Washington Capitals for Friday's clash at Verizon Center.
New York went 3-4-2 during a club-record nine-game homestand, winning the last two outings against Minnesota and Toronto after a dreadful start to the residency. The Rangers won the last two tilts with backup goaltender Cam Talbot in net, and he could get a third straight start over Henrik Lundqvist tonight in D.C.
Talbot allowed just two goals over his last two starts, stopping 24-of-25 shots in Sunday's 4-1 win over the Wild before turning aside 25-of-26 the following night against the Maple Leafs. Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello each scored during the shootout to give New York a hard-fought 2-1 decision over Toronto in Monday's clash at Madison Square Garden.
Zuccarello opened the shootout with a shot over the Maple Leafs netminder Jonathan Bernier's glove and Stepan beat him stick-side after Toronto's James van Riemsdyk struck the post to end the first round. Joffrey Lupul kept the Leafs alive with a successful attempt into the right corner, but Talbot thwarted Nazem Kadri's five-hole try to give New York the two points.
J.T. Miller netted the Rangers' lone regulation goal, as his club improved to 8-10-2 on home ice this season.
"It's safe to say that we are leaving for the holidays on a much happier note," said Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault. "We packed our bags, so it's going to be a pleasant three days [off]."
New York is beginning a five-game road trip tonight and is 10-8-0 as the guest this season.
The Rangers and Capitals have split two meetings this season, with each club winning one on the road. New York has taken eight of 12 overall in this series and five of the last six tilts in D.C.
Talbot has never faced Washington, but the first-year NHLer is 5-1-0 with a 1.41 goals against average in seven career road games.
Washington is currently second in the Metropolitan Division, where it sits four points ahead of both Philadelphia and the Rangers. The Caps, however, have lost two straight and three of their last four games and will try to salvage a win in the finale of a three-game homestand tonight.
The Capitals lost a 5-4 overtime decision Saturday against New Jersey and then fell by a 3-2 score in regulation in Monday's clash with Anaheim. Washington is 12-8-1 on home ice this season, but has dropped six of its last 10 games in D.C.
Washington jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period of Monday's game against the Ducks, but Anaheim slowly turned the tables against the Capitals by tallying a goal in each period. The contest marked a triumphant return to Washington for Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, who was behind the Caps' bench from November of 2007 through November of 2011.
Hampus Lindholm's tally late in the third period proved to be the game-winner for Boudreau's Ducks.
Mikhail Grabovski and Nicklas Backstrom provided the offense for the Capitals, losers in four of their last six outings. Philipp Grubauer stopped 26 pucks in defeat.
"They were aggressive. They were blocking a lot of shots, too," Backstrom said of the Ducks. "If you can't get shots through, you need to get the puck deep again and cycle them through, so that's something that maybe we need to work a little bit more on."
Alex Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 30 goals this season, had a four-game goal scoring streak snapped in Monday's loss. Ovechkin has eight markers over his last seven games and he has accumulated 16 goals and 15 assists in 33 regular-season tilts against the Rangers.
12/27 10:43:31 ET
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