The Capitals have been the consistent source playoff frustration for the New York Rangers under Coach John Tortorella. Washington booted the blueshirts from the postseason in two of the previous three years (2009 and 2011), and while history has no real bearing on current outcomes, it’s nothing if not a source of some motivation for the Rangers.
“You try not to think about the past, but it’s hard,” goalie Henrik Lundqvist told reporters in New York Friday. “They knocked us out two years. We really want to beat this team.”
Since 1990, the two squads have met five times prior to this Eastern Conference semifinal that kicks off Saturday afternoon; the Capitals have won four of them. The only exception was in 1994, the year New York went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Don’t let fiery Tortorella catch you talking about what happened in the past, though. Following the Rangers’ practice Friday, he called the history between these two teams “irrelevant”.
With no morning skate it’s likely that both Tortorella and Coach Dale Hunter will keep their lineup plans under wraps until warmups, but there are definitely a few things to note from the Rangers’ side.
— Brian Boyle skated Friday for the first time since suffering a concussion from a head shot by Ottawa’s Chris Neil. It’s uncertain whether Boyle, New York’s shutdown centerman, might be able to return in time to have an impact in this series.
— Unexpectedly missing from the same practice was Brandon Dubinsky, who has been filling in for Boyle as center of the third line. Dubinsky suffered an injury to his left leg early in Game 7 against the Senators Thursday night.
If Dubinsky is unable to suit up it’s possible that defenseman Stu Bickel will be shifted into an emergency forward role on the fourth line — a scenario that Tortorella used a few times in the regular season as well — while Steve Eminger would enter the lineup on defense.
— Unlike when the two teams met in 2011, the Rangers will have captain Ryan Callahan in the mix against Washington. Callahan, the heart and soul of New York’s lineup, is playing with an injured finger from blocking shot in Game 6 of the first round.
More on the Capitals:
— Analysis: How the Caps and Rangers match up
— History says it could boom or bust for Caps
— For Caps, second round could be boom or bust
— Ward arrives a hero at Friday’s practice
— Caps to face Rangers in conference semifinals
— Caps are committed to Hunter’s system