Last week, the Washington Capitals trekked through a five-game road trip as well as a five-game stint against the Pacific Division. This weekend, the Caps will enter an empire state of mind. At home for the first time since Feb. 12, the Caps will host the New York Rangers in the first of three straight games against New York-based teams.
Washington went 3-2-0 on its five-game trip, ending it with two important wins over the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins. Those wins gave the Capitals sole possession of fifth place in the Eastern Conference, four points behind the Penguins and three points behind Southeast Division leader Tampa Bay.
All 10 games that the Caps have played in February have been against teams that are either in the playoffs as of Thursday or just outside the cutoff. That won't change Friday; the Rangers are currently in seventh place with 68 points and win would pull them within four points of Washington. This is the final meeting between these two teams this season and the Rangers need a win to keep pace in the Eastern Conference; they are 3-6-1 in February. Meanwhile, the Caps are 1-1-1 against the Rangers this season, including the notorious 7-0 blowout loss Dec. 12 that was featured on HBO's "24/7."
There is definitely good news on Washington's injury front. Mike Green is expected to play Friday after missing six of the last seven games while recovering from a slapshot to the face Feb. 6. Green did not practice Thursday because of flu-like symptoms, but should be ready to play. Nicklas Backstrom should also play Friday even after suffering a fractured left thumb Monday when Kris Letang slashed him.
Friday's game is the precursor to a home-and-home series against the New York Islanders Saturday and Tuesday.