W2W4: Rangers vs. Caps

December, 8, 2013
12/08/13
2:24
PM ET
At a glance: Marc Staal will not be available Sunday night when the Rangers host the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden. The 26-year-old Staal left the Rangers’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Devils Saturday night, sparking concerns of a concussion. Losing Staal for any amount of time could be a colossal blow to the Rangers who have traded wins and losses the last eight games for a middling 15-14-1 record. Meanwhile, the Capitals have won three of their last four games heading into Sunday night’s match; Washington will also be playing in back-to-back games following Saturday night’s 5-2 win against the Nashville Predators.

Concussion concern: Given Staal’s unfortunate injury history over the last two seasons – he missed extended time in 2011-12 with a concussion and almost half the lockout-shortened 2013 season with a harrowing eye injury – the Rangers have reason to be concerned. Staal left Saturday’s game during the third period after a hard hit along the boards from New Jersey’s Reid Boucher. After the game, Vigneault said Staal “didn’t feel quite right” and would require further evaluation. With Staal unavailable to play, Michael Del Zotto will replace him in the lineup. Scratched for the sixth time Saturday night, Del Zotto could slot in on the left side of the second or third defensive pairing.

Metro match-up: Sunday’s match between the Rangers and Caps has divisional implications at stake, with both teams battling for second place in the Metropolitan Division. The Rangers trail the Caps by one point, though the Capitals own a game in hand. Neither team is making a case to challenge the front-running Pittsburgh Penguins, however. With seven wins in their last 10 games, the Pens have a nine-point lead on the Caps in the standings.
Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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