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Monday, January 24, 2011
W2W4: Rangers vs. Capitals

By Mike Hume

The Rangers look to build off their comeback win over the Atlanta Thrashers Saturday when they travel to D.C. to face the Washington Capitals. Here are three factors to watch for when the puck drops Monday night.

Welcome Back

After the game in Atlanta the Rangers recalled D Michael Del Zotto, who had been sent to the team’s AHL affiliate in Hartford after struggling in the first part of the season. In the minors, Del Zotto posted seven assists in eight games, with an even plus/minus rating. That’s certainly a better point-producing clip than he posted with the Rangers before getting sent down (two goals, seven assists in 35 games). Evgeny Grachev was also brought up in the wake of the Atlanta game, which saw Brandon Prust and Dan Girardi injured. Both are listed as day-to-day.

The Rangers’ Featured Scorer

Marian Gaborik has still shown no signs of consistency on the goal-scoring front, even after his four-goal outburst against the Maple Leafs. In the two games since, he has no points, four shots on goal and a minus-1 rating. Fortunately for the Rangers, recently acquired Wojtek Wolski has immediately paid dividends. He now has three goals and three assists in the seven games since he came over from the Phoenix Coyotes. In fact, it’s been Wolski’s line -- alongside youngsters Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello --that has been the Rangers’ most dynamic of late.

The Sleeping Giants

The Caps haven’t exactly been the model of consistency themselves this season as Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have scuffled in the scoring department -- by their lofty standards anyway. But following a hat trick against the Maple Leafs (they’re all the rage these days) Ovechkin has four goals and two assists over his past three games. Backstrom has six assists in his last five games, and finally ended a 21-game goal-scoring drought with a marker against the Islanders. Ovechkin’s battles with Marc Staal are always physical, entertaining affairs. Tonight promises to be no different … though Staal may lack his usual defensive partner, Girardi. It will be interesting to see how much impact that has.