New York Hockey: Alexander Semin

W2W4: Rangers vs. Caps

April, 30, 2012
At a glance: The Rangers took a 1-0 series lead with a win over the Capitals in Game 1, but Washington has since vowed to be better. Both teams enter Monday’s contest at Madison Square Garden after a tight-checking, defensive-minded series opener and expect more of the same as the semifinals match-up continues in Game 2.

Boyle game-time decision: Rangers forward Brian Boyle, who has missed the past three games with a concussion, was uncertain about whether he will play in Monday’s match at Madison Square Garden. The 6-foot-6 center said he had “no idea” if he will be available to play and will wait until later Monday afternoon before deciding if he is ready.

Dubinsky out: The news was not so good for Brandon Dubinsky, however. The 26-year-old forward, who appeared to suffer a leg injury in Game 7 against the Senators on Thursday, will miss his second straight game. Defenseman Steve Eminger, who played forward for the first time in his career on Saturday, could replace him in the lineup again. Hulking enforcer John Scott also may make his 2012 playoffs debut.

Jack Adams nod: Rangers coach John Tortorella joins St. Louis’ Ken Hitchock and Ottawa’s Paul MacLean as one of three finalists for this year’s Jack Adams award. This is his third nomination for the award, given out each year to the league’s best coach as voted by the NHL Broadcasters’ Association. Tortorella won in 2004, the same season in which his Tampa Bay Lightning squad won the Stanley Cup, and finished second in voting the previous year in 2003.

Semin demotion: After a brutal Game 1 in which he took two bone-headed stick penalties, Capitals winger Alexander Semin was demoted to the fourth line in practice on Sunday. Caps coach Dale Hunter denied he was sending a message (“Oh, just switching the lines around” he said after Monday’s morning skate) but the 28-year-old forward appears to be in the dog house after Saturday’s disappointing performance.

Ovie outlook: Alex Ovechkin was good-natured about the taunts that welcomed him to Madison Square Garden Saturday, but he might become a little surlier should his drought continue. The superstar forward was held off the scoresheet in Game 1 and limited to only one shot on goal.

Ch-Ch-Changes: Washington’s Jeff Schultz returns to the line for the Capitals after being scratched on Saturday.

Knuble: "We have more to offer"

April, 30, 2012
Veteran forward Mike Knuble said there was a consensus in the Caps' dressing room after Game 1's 3-1 loss to the Rangers.

"I think we all agree that we have more to offer, more skill to show, more shots to [get to] the net. We've got better," he said.

After pulling out an upset against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, the Capitals need to elevate their game in Round 2 against the top-seeded Rangers.

"We all know that that's not good enough. It's the second round. It's not the first round," Knuble said. "Everyone talks about a little sigh of relief, because it's tough to get out of the first round, but they got out of it and we got out of it, which means we're all doing a bunch of things right. So the margin for error gets smaller and the intesity level has got to go up."

One area the Capitals would like to be better? Discipline. Alexander Semin alone took half of the team's four penalties and his two bone-headed stick infractions appears to have earned him a demotion to Washington's fourth line.

"In the first round against Boston, a big key for us was not taking penalties, not giving them those easy opportunities on the power-play," said Brooks Laich. "We took three penalties that were away from our net [on Saturday], 150 feet away from the net, that weren't preventing a goal. That puts you back on your heels."

Semin demoted to fourth line

April, 29, 2012
According to reports from Capitals practice at Madison Square Garden Sunday, Alexander Semin has been demoted to the team's fourth line.

The 28-year-old winger skated on a line with veteran Mike Knuble and center Keith Aucoin following a rough Game 1 performance on Saturday night.

Semin took two boneheaded penalties in the Caps' 3-1 loss to the Rangers -- a slashing penalty in the first and a tripping penalty in the third.

Caps coach Dale Hunter sending a message?

According to's Dave Lozo, Hunter replied: "Nope, just mixing the lines up."

Meanwhile, Alex Ovechkin sounded confident with his opportunities in Game 1 despite being held off the scoresheet. Rangers' shutdown pair Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi limited the Russian superstar to only one shot on goal, although he said he had more room to operate compared to the Capitals' first-round series against the Bruins.

"I had more time and space than when we played against Boston, 100 percent," Ovechkin told reporters. "My line has to be better in the neutral zone to create opportunities for me and Brooksie and Brouwer."

W2W4: Game 3, Capitals vs. Rangers

April, 17, 2011
Though the Rangers' two-games-to-none hole is daunting, it doesn't signal the end of the line yet. Should they fail to emerge with two home wins over the next four days, then things get a little dicier. It's no secret that to get those W's their offense will have to be considerably better than it's been thus far in the series. So with that key note in mind, here's what to watch for when the puck drops at the Garden Sunday afternoon.

Michal Neuvirth

The Caps keeper has been very solid, but he hasn't yet had to be spectacular. Neuvirth's strength is his positioning and staying square to the shooter. However he's not that big for a goalie in today's NHL and he's not quite as athletic as his counterpart and teammate Semyon Varlamov. The Rangers need to get traffic to the front of the net and screen the slightly small stopper. And making him move across the crease a little couldn't hurt either. Considering the Rangers have been getting a lot of their shots blocked by the Caps' D anyway, the extra pass might be a smart idea.

Respect The Completion

Marian Gaborik's scoring struggles this season have been well documented, but the first two games this series he's created some good chances for himself -- he just hasn't been able to convert. If those chances weren't coming, I'd say it was futile to hope for a breakout, but it feels like a matter of time before the Rangers' top goal scorer starts to convert them. For the Rangers' sake, today would be the right time for his luck to change.

Don't Forget the D

Washington's disciplined defensive approach has been phenomenal in the first two games. Look at some of the highlights from Games 1 and 2 and you'll see as many as five skaters below the circles, including Alexander Semin and Alex Ovechkin who, in the past, have tended to cheat while looking for breakout passes. Having five skaters below the circles makes life very tough on opposing forwards and clogs up lanes to the net, but it should give the Rangers blueliners a little more space to work with. If the forwards can deliver the puck back to the blueline as the D collapses in, they could have some nice shot attempts through traffic.