Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals hits Michael Del Zotto #4 of the New York Rangers into the boards at Madison Square Garden on February 17, 2013 in New York City.
(February 16, 2013 - Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

NHL on NBC: Rangers, Caps look to bounce back

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When the Washington Capitals host the New York Rangers Sunday afternoon (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC), both teams will be looking to shrug off recent setbacks.

To an extent, the Capitals and Rangers are similar stories this season. Both got off to disappointing starts given the standards they’re held to and each team has been surging lately.

In the case of Washington, Alex Ovechkin’s recent contributions can’t be understated.

He’s taken a lot of heat over the last few years, but has seven goals and 17 points in his last 15 games. The Russian star has been particularly effective with the man advantage, which is part of the reason why the Capitals lead the Eastern Conference with a 26.6 power-play percentage.

“There’s predictability, but if we execute it I don’t think it can be stopped,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said of their power-play efforts in a CSN Washington report.

“It’s like Tom Brady. He gets the ball 50 times, right? He gets five reads and you trust Tom Brady can make the correct read out of the five.”

The Rangers have been one of the most disciplined teams in the league, so Washington might not get many opportunities in that regard. On top of that, Ovechkin will be countered by Rick Nash, who is riding a nine-game point streak.

This will also be defenseman Roman Hamrlik’s first game against the Washington Capitals since he was claimed by the New York Rangers. The 38-year-old veteran of 1,385 NHL games was listed as a healthy scratch in 16 out of 20 contests with the Capitals this season before finally being put on waivers.

Washington desperately needs every point they can get after digging a sizable hole for themselves earlier this season. However, this game is equally valuable for the Rangers, who have the most tenuous of holds on the eighth seed.

Probable goaltenders: NYR – Henrik Lundqvist (11-8-1, 2.24 GAA, .921 SV%) | WSH – Braden Holtby (9-7-0, 2.87 GAA, .911 SV%)

Top scorers: NYR – Nash (9-12-21, 19 GP) | WSH – Mike Ribeiro (9-19-28, 23 GP)

Notable Injuries:
New York – Forwards: Arron Asham (back) Defensemen: Marc Staal (eye), Michael Sauer (concussion)
Washington – Forwards: Marcus Johansson (upper body), Brooks Laich (groin) Defensemen: John Erskine (upper body), Mike Green (groin), Jack Hillen (shoulder) Goaltenders: Michal Neuvirth (illness)

Shock of Lightning: Stamkos will play

Steven Stamkos
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He’s in.

As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.

Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.

More:

Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.

That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.

Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.

It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.

To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.

 

Drama builds as Stamkos takes Game 7 warmup

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 26:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 26, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Lightning shutout the Devils 4-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.

In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.

And then Stamkos took the warmup.

As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.

“If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”

No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.

Stay tuned…

Parise rehabbing back injury without surgery, ‘no question’ he’ll play in World Cup

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 17:  Zach Parise #11 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 17, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Wild 7-4.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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EDINA, Minn. (AP) Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise has been rehabilitating his back injury without surgery, putting him on track to be at full strength by September.

Parise said Thursday he’s “happy with the way everything’s going.” He said he’s been able to work out as he normally does during the summer, despite missing the playoffs because of the injury.

Parise said there’s “no question” he’ll be ready to play for Team USA in the World Cup of Hockey tournament.

Parise joined teammates Erik Haula, Jason Pominville, Nate Prosser, Jared Spurgeon and Jason Zucker at an autograph signing to raise money for people affected by the wildfires in Alberta. The parents of Spurgeon’s wife, Danielle, lost their home to a fire in the Edmonton area.

WATCH LIVE: Lightning at Penguins, Game 7

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Alex Killorn #17 of the Tampa Bay Lightning falls to the ice at the net against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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Not much more to say than this:

GAME 7.

Puck drop is at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, but you can also catch the game online using NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Some relevant linkage for tonight’s affair:

It’s been a ‘roller coaster’ — Pens, Bolts ready for Game 7

Vasilevskiy ‘is the big reason we’re in Game 7,’ says Bolts coach Cooper

Pens coach praises Murray: ‘He doesn’t get rattled’

Video: Johnson pays the price for Tampa Bay