Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin wore a T-shirt to practice Monday that read, "I Will Step On You To Win.''

It's more likely he will use his stick than his skates if the Capitals are to beat the Rangers in this series that begins Thursday.

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Ovechkin, the NHL's leading goal-scorer with 32 in this shortened season, is healthy and on a roll. So are the Capitals, who returned to practice Monday in Arlington, Va. They overcame a 2-8-1 start to win the Southeast Division and No. 3 seed.

"It's nice that we're going to have [a] couple more days to relax and get ready,'' said Ovechkin, who led the NHL with 14 goals and 22 points in April as Washington went 11-1-1.

The Rangers beat Washington last season in a classic seven-game Eastern Conference semifinal. First-year Capitals coach Adam Oates said nothing but nice things about his opponent Monday.

"You have to respect them,'' Oates said. "They play an aggressive, pressure-type game. It's nothing we haven't seen. They play version of it.''

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Notes & quotes:The Caps hope veteran forward Joel Ward is ready to go in Game 1. He missed the final nine games of the season with a left knee contusion but practiced Monday.