New York Hockey: home ice troubles

W2W4: Capitals vs. Rangers

November, 9, 2010
11/09/10
8:42
AM ET
The Blueshirts are hoping to warm up what has been an unhappy home this season, with just a 2-4-1 mark at MSG. The Washington Capitals won't make it easy on them however, entering the contest with a league-leading 20 points in the standings and riding a four-game winning streak.

Here are three keys to keep your eye on when the puck drops.

Michal Neuvirth
The young netminder has been sensational for the Caps in the early going, generating a little Calder buzz in the process. Neuvirth is not the biggest goalie you'll see, but he may be one of the most positionally sound. He plays angles as well as any goalie I've watched, which means the Rangers must make him move to get the puck by him. Rebounds could provide particularly fruitful opportunities, as the Caps' D isn't always sharp when it comes to clearing them away from the crease.

The Forecheck/Cycle
Brandon Dubinsky thought the team did a lousy job on the forecheck in Sunday's loss to the Blues, but it could pay big dividends if they can keep the pressure on Tuesday night. The Caps will likely try to match Mike Green and Jeff Schultz against the Dubinsky-Anisimov-Callahan line whenever they can, but on the road, that trio will almost surely see time against the rookie pairing of John Carlson and Karl Alzner, as well as the rather sluggish skating duo of Tyler Sloan and John Erskine. That latter pairing has had trouble clearing the Caps' zone. If the the Rangers can get a good cycle going with Sloan and Erskine on the ice, I'd bet it results in some good scoring chances if not a goal.

Faceoffs
With all of the Caps' offensive weapons, zone time and puck possession will be key and it starts at the faceoff dot. The Rangers have been getting killed in the circle this season (45.2 percent, 28th in the NHL) and lost 38 of 54 draws Sunday. With Green, Carlson, Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin frequently looking for shots off of faceoff wins, at a minimum, the Rangers must make sure they don't lose draws cleanly. Of course, winning a few draws wouldn't hurt either.

The blog will be at the game tonight, so look for a Rapid Reaction right after the final horn. A notes and quotes post will follow later tonight.

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