The Washington Capitals already owned the best record in the NHL before bolstering their roster at the trade deadline. They’ve also been just about unbeatable at home.
Fresh off netting two goals in his team debut, Scott Walker(notes) will try to help the Capitals extend their franchise-record home winning streak to 13 games while avenging a rare home loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday night.
Washington (43-13-8) leads the league with 94 points and appeared to improve its chances at the team’s first Stanley Cup title by making four deals prior to Wednesday’s deadline, adding Walker, defensemen Joe Corvo(notes) and Milan Jurcina(notes) and center Eric Belanger(notes).
Walker, acquired from Carolina for a seventh-round draft pick, made an immediate impact, scoring twice in a 2:58 span of the third period in Thursday’s 5-4 win over Tampa Bay. The right wing’s first multi-goal game in three years extended Washington’s home winning streak to 12 games for the NHL’s longest such run since Boston won 14 in a row Oct. 25, 2008-Jan. 1, 2009.
“I was nervous, probably didn’t get a good pregame nap, and I was just trying to play and fit in,” said Walker, who had three goals in 33 games before being dealt. “They’re playing so good, you just don’t want to disrupt them.”
The Capitals are a league-best 24-3-3 at home, but one of those defeats came against the Rangers (29-27-8) - 4-3 on Oct. 8. However, they’re 12-2-2 against them at Verizon Center and won the last two matchups at New York, including a 6-5 win behind three points from Alex Ovechkin(notes) on Feb. 4.
The teams split four opening-round playoff meetings in the nation’s capital last spring before Washington won the series in seven games.
Another matchup with the Rangers could get Ovechkin going. The NHL leader with 90 points and tied with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby(notes) with a league-high 42 goals, Ovechkin is on a season-high five-game goal drought.
He has 13 goals and nine assists in 19 games against New York, which is tied with Montreal and Atlanta for eighth in the conference.
The Rangers are looking to rebound from Thursday’s 5-4 overtime loss to Atlantic Division-leading Pittsburgh as they were outshot 55-16, including 23-1 in the third period and extra session. Henrik Lundqvist(notes) had a career-high 50 saves, but gave up Evgeni Malkin’s(notes) goal with 1:28 left on a shot that deflected off New York’s Brandon Dubinsky(notes) for the third tally to get past him off a teammate’s deflection.
“There were some bad bounces,” Lundqvist said.
Lundqvist should be in net again Saturday, but he’s 2-3-2 with a 3.94 goals-against average in his last seven starts against Washington.
New York is hoping Marian Gaborik(notes) can return from a lower-body injury that is believed to be a hurt groin sustained while playing for Slovakia at the Olympics. The right wing has missed two games since the Olympics, and missed two of three prior to the two-week break due to a cut on his right knee suffered in a collision with Lundqvist last month.
Gaborik leads the team with 35 goals and 69 points, and has four goals and two assists in three meetings with the Capitals. He found the net twice against them in October.