GREENBURGH, N.Y. — They will have to get up earlier than usual. But once they do, the Rangers shouldn’t have any trouble getting up for Sunday’s nationally televised 12:30 p.m. game against the Washington Capitals.
“We’ve got the best team in the NHL coming into our building,” Alain Vigneault said after Saturday’s practice. “I’m anxious to see that matchup. Should be a real fast-paced, intense hockey game there. They’re a big, skilled team and we’re going to have to be at our best.”
The Capitals, who lost in a shootout in Detroit on Saturday, lead the NHL with 85 points. Nicklas Backstrom entered fourth in the league with 60 points. But it won’t be Backstrom the Rangers are focusing on. It will be Alex Ovechkin, who was tied for eighth with 26 goals and also has 25 assists. Since his debut in October 2005, Ovechkin has scored 551 goals. He is 27th on the all-time list and trails Guy Lafleur by nine goals for 25th.
“We always prepare special for him, whether it be five-on-five or the power play,” Vigneault said. “You’ve got the best shooter in the league. A force that not only [does he have] the skill to beat you one-on-one, but he can go through you one-on-one. We’ve always paid special attention to him, and [Sunday] won’t be any different.”
Goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who has enjoyed a light week (his only action came in Thursday night’s 4-2 loss to the Islanders), is looking forward to facing the Capitals and their star.
“Ever since I got here, he’s been one of the best to go after it,” Lundqvist said. “He plays physical and he likes to score. They’re a confident team. I think they’re playing similar to last year where every aspect of the game, they’re doing it very well. They have the skill and speed. That’s why they’re first in the league right now.”
Fixing the sputtering power play, which is in a 3-for-33 skid, was the main focus at practice.
“We also had a long video session,” Vigneault said. “It’s definitely an area that we’re putting a lot of focus on, paying a lot of attention on certain principles that we feel are important. But at the end of the day also, we don’t want players to go out there and overthink. If you’re thinking too much on the ice, then you’re playing slow and you’re not moving the puck quick. We worked on it prior to practice, talked a lot about it in the video session and I really liked the work we did today at practice on the ice. Puck movement was better. The shot attempts were better.”
Pavel Buchnevich, a healthy scratch Thursday, will return to the lineup. He rejoined the first power-play unit at practice. Defenseman Kevin Klein returned from the flu-like symptoms that kept him out Thursday and should play Sunday.