The Rangers will play back-to-back in Washington where Kris Knoblauch will remain as the acting head coach for at least the next two games (7:00 P.M. ET, MSG).

RangersEast Division Ranks /8Capitals
6th  East Ranking1st

               9-0. That was the score the Rangers defeated the Flyers on Wednesday night on national television. This will go down as one of the largest margin wins that fans will see in their lifetime. Before the game even started, the Rangers announced that head coach David Quinn and his entire staff were in the COVID protocol and would be unavailable. Hartford Wolf Pack head coach Kris Knoblauch would serve as acting head coach. Knoblauch’s assistant in Hartford Gord Murphy joined Knoblauch and associate general manager Chris Drury also joined the pair as an assistant coach. But little did anyone know that the makeshift coaching staff would only become part of the story as they would guide the Rangers to a 9-0 victory.

               “It’s certainly a night I’ll never forget,” Knoblauch said. Knoblauch said he got a phone call from Drury while he was coaching in Hartford at 11:30AM. He thought the Rangers were initially going to be calling someone up but in reality, it was he who was getting the call up. He was told to be on standby that he may be needed to coach and it was confirmed around 1:00PM that he would be coaching against the Flyers.

               “They’re awesome,” said defenseman Ryan Lindgren after Thursday practice on Knoblauch and Murphy. “I played for them a little bit in Harford last year and I really enjoyed them. They’re two just outstanding people and great coaches.”

               The game started off like it was just going to be another day of hockey with the Rangers off to a 2-0 lead after one period. But in period two, the Rangers offense scored enough goals for two games as they exploded with a seven-goal second period. Mika Zibanejad looked like his old self and he recorded six points including a natural hat trick in the second frame.

               “Before the game, it was just trying not to complicate things,” said Zibanejad. “There wasn’t a lot of information or a lot of talk. Just go out and play.”

               Alex Georgiev had a massive bounce-back game as he recorded a 26 save shutout. Georgiev had been pulled in his prior two starts, but look very comfortable in his return to the net. Georgiev had allowed seven goals on 20 shots entering Wednesday’s game.

               “I have no words, to be honest. I obviously tried to focus on my job,” said Georgiev. “But you could not ignore how unbelievable the guys were playing.”

               With Quinn and his staff still in protocol, Knoblauch and his makeshift staff will remain be behind the bench for the back-to-back in Washington. Like Wednesday, Quinn will be involved with the game plan and have his say on things. The Blueshirts are expected to stick with the same lineup that blew out the Flyers.

               The Rangers have played well against the Capitals this season having won both meetings and outscoring the Capitals 8-3. In fact, the Blueshirts account for 33% of the Capitals regulation time defeats. The only team the Capitals haven’t defeated yet this season are the Rangers.

               “We haven’t beat them yet,” said Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette of the Rangers. “They’re a dangerous club and they’ve got a lot of skill. I think when I looked them up [on Wednesday] night, I saw that they had six goals on 13 or 14 shots, and so it wasn’t like they had six goals on 40 shots after two periods. So, they were very opportunistic with what they did.”

               But this game won’t come easy as the Capitals enter the game red hot. Washington enters on a six-game win streak. Tom Wilson has been suspended for seven-games but the Capitals have been perfect in his absence. Wilson will be able to play in the second half of the back-to-back.

               Daniel Sprong has taken Wilson’s spot in the lineup and has done a very nice job for Washington. The 24-year-old has recorded three goals in five games in limited ice time. When Wilson does return on Saturday, the coaching staff will have a real tough decision on who comes out of the lineup.  

               Leading the Capitals in points is Nicklas Backstrom who has 33 points in 29 games. Backstrom’s 12 goals is tied for the team lead with Alex Ovechkin.

               The Blueshirts will see Vitek Vanecek for the third time this season. The Blueshirts have scored six-goals on 53 shots against Vanecek this season. The Rangers are yet to see Ilya Samsonov who was out for a period of time with COVID-19. The last time Samsonov played the Rangers was on Zibanejad’s historic five-goal game. Samsonov will likely get the start for Washington on Saturday.

               Alex Georgiev will make the start coming off the shutout. Knoblauch announced that starting goaltender Igor Shesterkin could be available for Saturday.

               Vitali Kravtsov is still in quarantine but he is getting closer to being allowed to join the Rangers. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Kravtsov should be allowed to practice at some time next week and he will likely join the top-nine forwards once he gets a few practices under his belt.

Projected Lineup