There are always paral lel, if at times contradictory, theories at work in the playoffs, one being that a team cannot succeed in a seven-game series without significant contributions from depth players, the other holding that a team cannot succeed without its top players leading the way.

Both concepts apply to the Rangers as they prepare to face the powerful, No. 1-seed Caps, beginning with the first two games in D.C. this week before the series shifts to the Garden next weekend.

The team that won 44 games, earned 93 points and made the playoffs primarily because of an all-for-one mentality that created a unit greater than the sum of its parts won't get by without contributions from the supporting cast and won't succeed if coach John Tortorella only trusts eight or nine forwards and four defensemen to get the job done.

Similarly, the chance of an upset -- and that's what victory surely would be against this Washington team in search of a Stanley Cup that pounded down the stretch 16-2-1 -- is dependent upon Henrik Lundqvist and Marian Gaborik operating at peak performance levels. And no one has the slightest concern about The King.

The spotlight is on Gaborik, who is coming off a wretched season and an inadequate stretch drive during which he failed to score in the final eight games and was benched in the third period in four of the nine games leading up to Saturday's victory over the Devils.

Gaborik may not like being singled out and he may not be comfortable on center stage, but his $7.5 million a year contract doesn't afford him the luxury of opting out.