Tonight, the Rangers take on the Capitals in the nation’s capital. It’ll be their first look against the defending champs. It’s the second game of a back-to-back. How will this team respond to a big challenge from a very good team? Considering that the Caps prominently feature Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, John Carlson and Braden Holtby, it promises to be a tough battle.
You wonder how our team can do against a rested Washington club probably still steaming over a 6-1 blowout loss to the Devils. Granted. It was unproven backup Pheonix Copley. But you still don’t expect them to get the doors blown off by anyone. Tom Wilson is still serving his long 20-game suspension. He has appealed it, but it’s a lengthy process. You won’t see him until almost Thanksgiving.
Dmitry Orlov remains the most overlooked player on that blueline. A good skater who can match up, he can also jump into the rush. Matt Niskanen also remains a steady defensive presence. Brooks Orpik is still around too for the physicality.
Pavel Buchnevich will return to the Rangers lineup after being a healthy scratch for last night’s 3-2 shootout win over Colorado. He will start on the fourth line, replacing Cody McLeod. So, he’ll slide in with Ryan Spooner and Vinni Lettieri. We’ll see if the gifted 23-year old Russian can work his way back into David Quinn’s good graces. He wants to see better effort and more grit. That will require Buchnevich to get the jersey dirty and not stay on the perimeter. Hopefully, he will still get a turn on the power play. It would be foolish not to use him there. That’s an area he excels at.
I wouldn’t have been opposed to benching Namestnikov again, keeping McLeod in following a good game. But Namestnikov stays in on the third line with Brett Howden and Jimmy Vesey. They need more from both wingers. The lines are basically the same except Buchnevich, who replaces McLeod.
Does Quinn try the top line of Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Jesper Fast against the Ovechkin line? Can Marc Staal and Brendan Smith keep up if that’s the match up? Maybe they should go with the faster skating Brady Skjei and Neal Pionk. It definitely won’t be Fredrik Claesson or Kevin Shattenkirk.
Can the cohesive second line of Filip Chytil, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello follow up with another good game?
Henrik Lundqvist gets his sixth start. We’ll see if they’re up to the challenge. The game can be seen on NBCSN at 7 EST.