Alex Ovechkin and Carl Hagelin

Five Q’s: Capitals-Rangers preview


Will a happy Alex Ovechkin translate into team success?

Last year, when the Capitals faced the Rangers in the second round, Alex Ovechkin — one of the NHL’s biggest stars — played just 13:36 in a 3-2 Game 2 victory. The reason? Then-Washington coach Dale Hunter didn’t trust his captain defensively, often leaving Ovechkin on the bench when the Caps held a lead. This year, Ovechkin has thrived under new coach Adam Oates, moving from the the left wing to the right and leading the league in goals, with 32. But Ovechkin has gone into the playoffs as the league’s top sniper before, and it hasn’t translated into anything better than a second-round defeat.

Will Rick Nash make his mark?

Rick Nash has scored lots of goals in his career, but he’s still only played four playoff games. In his first season with the Rangers after being traded from Columbus, Nash had 21 goals in 44 games. Now comes the opportunity for the 28-year-old to make his mark in games that count. “It’s something all the great athletes have done,” he said. “It’s time to step up now.” With his big body and ability to shield defenders, Nash will also be key for a New York side that will want to control the puck in the Washington end as much as possible.

Will Marc Staal be back?

The Rangers’ defenseman has been out of the lineup since being struck in the eye with a puck in early March. It’s unlikely he’ll be ready for Game 1, but the fact he’s been practicing with the team is a sign he may be ready to play soon. Not only is Staal a good defensive defenseman, his return would mean fewer hard minutes for Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh. Last year, two of the seven Caps-Rangers games went to overtime. By the time New York met the Devils in the conference finals, fatigue appeared to be a factor, even if John Tortorella refused to admit it.

Can the Rangers stay out of the penalty box?

Because the Capitals have the NHL’s best power play. Washington — armed with the likes of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green — scored on an impressive 26.8 percent of its man advantages during the regular season. Meanwhile, the Rangers’ had only an average penalty kill (15th, 81.1%). Of course, the best way to negate a good power play has always been to avoid taking penalties. New York is normally a disciplined team, and would be advised to remain that way.

Can Braden Holtby match Henrik Lundqvist?

Holtby was rock-solid in goal for the Caps down the stretch. In April, the 23-year-old had nine wins against just one regulation loss, registering a save percentage of .937. Still, he only has one postseason of experience compared to Lundqvist’s six. What does he think about that? “There are things that you can gain from experience in terms of your play but when it comes down to it that stuff is thrown out the window,” said Holtby. “You just have to perform, you have to believe that we’re the better team and you go from there. You throw experience out the window and you just play.”

For all the first-round playoff previews, click here.

Daniel Winnik was back at practice just two days after his ear got ‘chewed up’

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04: Daniel Winnik #26 of the Washington Capitals skates against the New York Rangers at the Verizon Center on March 4, 2016 in Washington, DC. The Rangers defeated the Capitals 3-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Hockey players are known for their toughness, but Daniel Winnik is taking it to a whole new level.

The damage was done after Winnik blocked a shot against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.

After the game, Caps head coach Barry Trotz said his forward had lost a piece of his ear, but it sounds like that wasn’t totally accurate.

“I wouldn’t say I lost a piece of it,” said Winnik, per the Washington Post. “I mean, it’s really chewed up, and obviously some scabs and all of that, but no visible missing piece…The puck hit basically half ear, maybe a little more ear than helmet. Very fortunate it wasn’t way worse.”

He didn’t need any stitches, but they did have to use some glue to patch him up.

To watch how his ear got “chewed up,” click here.

It doesn’t sound like the injury did enough to scare Winnik into putting on a visor or an earpiece.

“I mean, my face has been banged up a lot over the years, and I still haven’t worn a visor. I mean I’ve probably broken my nose like 15 times or something. I just can’t wear it, and the earpieces, I think you’re just used to wearing it for so long without it. I mean you take them out you’re like, ‘Why the hell was I wearing earpieces in the first place?’ But I guess this is kind of an indication on why guys do.”

‘We’ve got a lot of guys sick’: Some Predators players have been hit hard by food poisoning

SUNRISE, FL - SEPTEMBER 27: Head coach Peter Laviolette of the Nashville Predators talks to the players during a break in action against the Florida Panthers during a preseason game at the BB&T Center on September 27, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Here’s a story you don’t see everyday.

Nashville Predators GM David Poile might have to scramble to put a roster together for tonight’s game against Pittsburgh because a few of his players are dealing with food poisoning.

During yesterday’s game against the Red Wings, both Ryan Johansen and Craig Smith were forced to exit early because of illness.

Now we know that the illnesses were caused by something the players ate (Poile believes it was chicken soup that caused this).

We still don’t know exactly how many players have been affected by this.

Playing two games in two nights is hard enough, but it sounds like it’ll be even tougher for the Preds tonight.

James Neal, Roman Josi and P.K. Subban are all fine, according to Brooks Bratten.

More details to come.

Lower-body injury will keep Ryan Pulock out for 4-6 weeks

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 21: Ryan Pulock #6 of the New York Islanders skates against the Arizona Coyotes at the Barclays Center on October 21, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Well, this isn’t the start to the season Ryan Pulock was hoping for.

After playing six games with the Islanders during last year’s playoffs, many expected Pulock to make the team out of training, but that didn’t happen.

He didn’t spend much time in the minors (two games) because of the injury to Nick Leddy.

Pulock made his season debut in last night’s game against Arizona. Unfortunately for him, he suffered a lower-body injury after playing just 3:57.

On Saturday, the team announced that Pulock will be out anywhere between 4-to-6 weeks.

If Leddy can’t play on Sunday, the Islanders will have to recall another defenseman from the minors. Because they’re carrying three goalies, they only have room for six blue liners.

With Tuukka Rask banged up, Bruins recall Zane McIntyre on emergency basis

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 22: Zane McIntyre #50 of the Boston Bruins makes a save against the Washington Capitals during the second period at TD Garden on September 22, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Boston Bruins recalled goalie Zane McIntyre on an emergency basis on Saturday morning.

The call up was necessary because it doesn’t look like starter Tuukka Rask will be able to suit up against the Montreal Canadiens tonight.

Rask missed Friday’s practice with what head coach Claude Julien described as “general body soreness,” but it might be a little more serious than that if he’s forced to miss multiple games.

According to Julien, Rask is feeling better, but the prefer giving him the night off.

The Bruins selected McIntyre in the sixth-round of the 2010 Entry Draft.

He’s never suited up in an NHL game before.

The 24-year-old turned pro last year, after spending three years at the University of North Dakota.

He had a 14-8-7 record with a 2.68 goals-against-average and a .898 save percentage with Providence in 2015-16. This season, he has a 0.44 goals-against and a .977 save percentage in three games.

It’s interesting to note that the Bruins preferred McIntyre to former first rounder Malcolm Subban.

Subban has an 0-3 record in the AHL this year and he’s been pulled in two of his three outings.