NEW YORK – In a pair of lopsided wins against the Winnipeg Jets Thursday and Friday nights the Capitals moved the puck like the 1977 Montreal Canadiens, outscoring the Jets 10-1.
Adam Oates knows it won’t be so easy against John Tortorella’s New York Rangers tonight at Madison Square Garden [6:30 p.m. Caps Central, CSN]. In two games against the Rangers this season the Caps have been outscored 6-2.
“They play in front of their goalie [Henrik Lundqvist] and he’s a great goalie,” Oates said. “They block shots and they make you work for it and they try to capitalize on your mistakes and we have to be patient.
“Just pound the puck, get screens and have the attitude that they’re out there to win 1-0 or 2-1 and you’ve got to have the same attitude.”
Welcome back, Brooks: It’s no coincidence the Capitals are 2-0 in their two games with Brooks Laich and Mike Green in the lineup. Laich balanced out the forward lines by joining Mike Ribeiro and Troy Brouwer on the second unit, which netted three even-strength goals against the Jets on Friday night.
Laich also had a pair of shorthanded breakaway attempts in the two wins in Winnipeg.
“It’s huge,” Oates said of the importance of getting Laich back into the lineup. “It makes it difficult on their coach, who to match up against.
“Brooksie looks like he’s been shot out of a cannon. You can’t beat speed from a good decision maker. You just can’t. He plays in every situation.”
Oates said he’s trying to manage Laich’s ice time – he played 12:51 in his first game back in Pittsburgh Tuesday night and 14:11 in each of the two games in Winnipeg – but was assured by Laich two weeks ago that conditioning would not be a problem for the 29-year-old.
Green said the return of Laich balances out the Caps’ top two lines, but he also adds a workmanlike presence in the locker room.
“He’s one of those impact players who can make a difference,” Green said. “He really takes the game serious and it’s good to see him doing what he does best.”
Scoreboard watching: The Capitals would close within a point of the ninth-place Rangers with a regulation win tonight but won’t gain any round on either the Lightning or Jets, who play each other tonight in Winnipeg. If Tampa wins in regulation, and the Caps win in regulation, the Caps would move to within three points of the Hurricanes and Jets.
“We’re obviously aware of the standings,” Green said. “It’s one of those things where we have to win every night. As much as we can look at the standings the bottom line is if we win it’ll all take care of itself.”
Early skate: The Capitals switched their morning skate on Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. to allow for a charity hockey game benefitting Hurricane Sandy victims.
Projected lineup: The Caps are expected to go with the same forward lines and defense pairings as the ones used in Winnipeg:
Marcus Johansson-Nicklas Backstrom-Alex Ovechkin
Brooks Laich-Mike Ribeiro-Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera-Mathieu Perreault-Joel Ward
Eric Fehr-Jay Beagle-Matt Hendricks
Karl Alzner-Steve Oleksy
Dmitry Orlov-Mike Green
Jack Hillen-John Carlson
Braden Holtby [starter]-Michal Neuvirth