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Saturday, April 28, 2012
W2W4: Rangers vs. Caps

By Katie Strang

At a glance: No rest for the weary. Both the Rangers and Capitals are coming off first-round series’ that required seven games. It’ll be an especially quick turnaround for the Rangers, who knocked off the eighth-seeded Senators less than 48 hours ago. In Saturday’s Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Madison Square Garden, they’ll host a Washington squad that pulled off one of the biggest first-round upset with their defeat of the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins. And don’t think the Rangers have forgotten: the Capitals have bounced them from the playoffs in their past two post-season appearances in 2011 and 2009.

Shrouded in secrecy: Both Brian Boyle (concussion) and Brandon Dubinsky (leg) are questionable for Saturday’s matinee. Coach John Tortorella had no interest in discussing their status, either. When asked three different times about the two forwards’ availability, Tortorella responded with the same refrain each time: “no updates.”

Get Gaborik going: The spotlight is on forward Marian Gaborik, who all but disappeared for the Rangers in the first round. Limited to one goal and two assists in seven games, Gaborik needs to do more for the Rangers to advance. If he doesn’t, don’t be surprised to see his ice time restricted. Tortorella has already hinted that he’s willing to sit anyone that doesn’t perform.

O-factor: Washington’s Alex Ovechkin did not live up to his star status in Round 1 for the Capitals. With Dale Hunter limiting his ice time – he played only 16:25 in Game 7 against the Bruins – Ovechkin was held to two goals and three assists in the quarterfinals. The Rangers can’t ignore the Capitals’ entire cast of stars, however. Washington is 11-1-0 when they have Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green all in their lineup.

Rookie reigns supreme: Rookie Chris Kreider, who left Boston College to sign with the Rangers just days before the playoffs began, is coming off his best NHL game yet in Game 7 against the Senators. The 20-year-old winger’s play wasn’t reflected on the scoresheeet, but he helped set up the team’s crucial first goal. He also was used by Tortorella on the power-play and in a key defensive situation in the last minute of the game. Expect to see his role increase in the second round.