- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 9, 2011

SUNRISE, Fla. – The out-of-town scoreboard at BankAtlantic Center on Saturday night meant a lot more to the Capitals than what they did against the Panthers on the ice. Washington left with a 1-0 loss to Florida in Game 82 of the regular season. But the bigger news was the Caps learned they will face the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs.

“We had to wait till the last second to find out who we were playing, but we were ready for anybody and we’re excited to play New York, excited to play at Madison Square Garden and ready to get it going,” forward Matt Bradley said.

New York beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 earlier Saturday and clinched the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference when the Carolina Hurricanes lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-2 later in the day at RBC Center. The Caps didn’t learn the Rangers would be their opponent until their game in Sunrise was over, though word of Tampa Bay’s big lead likely trickled in between periods.

“I think we were kinda watching the scores between periods and noticed that,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “It’s gonna be a really good series, that’s for sure. We definitely need a little bit of redemption against those guys. We didn’t play them too well in the regular season.”

That, of course, is in reference to two losses to the Rangers by scores of 7-0 and 6-0, though players admitted this is a much different Washington team than that group. It’s also a rematch of the 2009 series between the two teams that the Caps won in seven.

As for 2011, the regular season ended with a lot of on-ice apathy in South Florida as several players admitted the meaningless nature of the game played a role in the lackluster affair.

“It’s the 82nd game. I think, to be honest, we’re looking ahead,” winger Mike Knuble said. “At times we worked hard and at times we were sloppy.”

Said young center Marcus Johansson: “I think we were a little bit too ready for that and focusing too much for that, maybe. It feels good to get this started now. We’ve been looking forward to it for a while now, so it’s gonna be fun.”

Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said it was obvious his team was looking ahead – but now he and his staff will get cracking on playoff preparation before Wednesday.

“Let’s get and watch video right away – see what they’ve changed, let’s see if they’ve changed anything,” Boudreau said. “Let’s go over the games that they beat us and see what we did wrong. Let’s get prepared.”

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