NHL Preview from The Sports Network |
Thursday, October 5th
(All times eastern)
Washington Capitals (0-0-0) at New York Rangers (0-0-0), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Jaromir Jagr and the New York Rangers begin the quest for
their second straight playoff berth tonight when they host Alexander Ovechkin
and the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers, however, are also looking for redemption of sorts. A poor stretch
run culminated with an embarrassing first-round sweep at the hands of the
New Jersey Devils in the playoffs.
The Rangers weren't overly busy this summer, but the moves they did make were
key. Brendan Shanahan brings his winning pedigree to the Big Apple after a
tenure in Detroit that saw him win three Stanley Cups. Aaron Ward and Matt
Cullen are both fresh off winning the chalice with Carolina, and Adam Hall is
a young power forward who can give the team between 15 and 20 goals from the
It's no coincidence that three of the four acquisitions above bring
championship experience with them, a season after the Rangers flopped when
things mattered most. It wasn't just the playoffs that left a bad taste in New
York's mouth, but the club was below par for much of the post-Olympic slate.
Of course, the newcomers to the team will have to learn to play around Jagr,
who re-asserted himself as an all-world scorer last season. Jagr tallied 54
goals and 69 assists -- leading the league in helpers and finishing second in
tallies and points.
The team also found a starting goaltender in rookie Henrik Lundqvist. The
Olympic gold medalist went 30-12-9 with a 2.24 goals-against average in 53
appearances and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.
The Rangers will visit Philadelphia on Saturday night.
Washington, meanwhile, finished 14th in the Eastern Conference last season,
but the team also realized just how good its cornerstone was. Ovechkin tallied
52 goals and 53 assists in 81 games to help him win the Calder Trophy as
rookie of the year.
Ovechkin became the first rookie to amass 100 points in a season since Joe
Juneau and Teemu Selanne accomplished the feat during the 1992-93 campaign and
the Russian also was the first rookie with 50 goals since Selanne.
Ovechkin needs significant help up front. The play-making Russian more than
doubled the goal total of Washington's second-leading scorer -- Dainius Zubrus
with 23 goals -- as the Capitals had no player other than Ovechkin finish with
more than 60 points.
The Caps will host Carolina on Saturday.
Washington is 15-14-2 all-time in season openers, while New York is 31-35-13.
The Rangers and Capitals split four meetings last season, with each team
winning in its own rink.
10/05 10:30:08 ET