Rangers-Capitals Preview

The Associated Press

Given the way his Washington Capitals responded, coach Adam Oates might want to give positive speeches more often.

Then again, Washington may not need it against the road-weary New York Rangers.

The Capitals hope to build on their promising performance Wednesday night when they look to deal the Rangers a fourth straight loss.

The clubs meet for the first time since a first-round series in last season's Eastern Conference playoffs, when New York rallied from a 2-0 deficit and ousted Washington with a 5-0 victory in Game 7.

Although both teams entered this season with high expectations, they've struggled to get on track during slow starts.

After totaling four goals during a three-game skid, Oates gave his squad a positive power talk during Sunday's practice, instead of dwelling on the negative. A day later, the Capitals (2-4-0) responded by scoring three goals in less than four minutes of the second period en route to a 4-2 win over Edmonton.

"We're not as confident as we should be, but a lot of guys got goals," Oates said. "We feel better about ourselves and hopefully, that cures some of it."

Washington was 1 of 10 on the power play during its skid before going 2 for 3 with a man advantage against the Oilers.

Star Alex Ovechkin, who leads the Capitals with three power-play goals, has picked up where he left off after posting 22 goals and 34 points in his final 21 games last season. The winger ranks among NHL leaders with six goals and nine points as he tries to lead Washington to back-to-back wins on this five-game homestand.

Ovechkin had 10 goals and 19 points over a 21-game stretch versus the Rangers (1-4-0) before he was held without a point over the final five games of last spring's playoff series. However, he should feel confident facing a New York team that has allowed 20 goals during a three-game losing streak and a league-worst 5.0 per game overall.

After yielding 10 goals in his previous two starts, Henrik Lundqvist bounced back by stopping 16 of 17 shots in relief of Martin Biron in a 5-3 loss at St. Louis on Saturday.

Biron was assigned to Hartford of the AHL on Monday after recording a 7.61 goals-against average in two games. He's been replaced by Cam Talbot, who was 2-0-1 with a 2.54 GAA for Hartford.

Expected to get the start, Lundqvist seeks his third straight shutout against the Capitals after blanking them in Game 6 and 7 last May.

"There are going to be stretches when the puck is really big and stretches when the puck is a lot smaller," Lundqvist said. "At the same time, it can turn around for you pretty quick."

That appears to be the case for Washington's Braden Holtby, who has given up seven goals in his last three starts after allowing eight in his first two.

The Capitals likely will have to contain Brad Richards, who has four of the Rangers' NHL-worst nine goals. He has three scores in his last four regular-season trips to the nation's capital.

New York, however, has placed Rick Nash on the injured reserve list because of a head injury, while Washington defenseman John Erskine could return after missing two games due to an upper body injury.

The Rangers have four stops left on a season-opening, nine-game trip. They've dropped 9 of 13 in Washington - including postseason meetings.

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