The Pittsburgh Penguins (41-21-10) are skidding down the home stretch. They’ve lost three in a row and are 4-5-1 in their last 10. The Washington Capitals are the fellow aging power in the Metro Division are also lumbering down the stretch with six wins in their last 10.
The pucks drops after 3 p.m. It’ an ABC game, so strap in for the national coverage.
Washington is searching for its starting goalie. Neither Ilya Samsonov nor Vitek Vanecek have seized the net and Washington has treaded water in the second wild-card spot. However, Washington trails the Penguins by six points but has two games in hand.
What seemed improbable–The Washington Capitals claiming third place–is much more possible than it was a week ago. Saturday’s battle could create a full-fledged battle. Third place will face the second seed in the playoffs. The loser will probably face the Florida Panthers in Round One.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said Jason Zucker WILL play, but Sidney Crosby and John Marino are game-time decisions. Both missed the Penguins’ loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday.
Capitals forward Conor Sheary is also under the weather.
If there’s a theme or storyline for the game, it could be testing the Penguins’ motivation. Despite the obstinately positive reviews of their own work, the Penguins have lost three in a row to good teams and lost three in a row to division-rival New York Rangers.
Evgeni Malkin had no shots on goal and was a minus-1 on Thursday despite playing on the Penguins top line with Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust. The Penguins have struggled against the elite speed of Colorado and New York, but Washington does not possess top-shelf speed. Washington is, and always has, boasted a talented top-six including Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Ovechkin reached 1400 career points this week. He’s just a few ahead of Crosby.
Possible Pittsburgh Penguins Lines
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Jason Zucker||Evgeni Malkin||Rickard Rakell|
|Danton Heinen||Ryan Poehling||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Brock McGinn||Sam Poulin||Drew O'Connor|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||Jeff Petry|
|P.O Joseph||Jan Rutta|
Washington Capitals Lines, per Washington Hockey Now:
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Garnet Hathaway
Anthony Mantha-Nicklas Backstrom-Tom Wilson
Marcus Johansson-Connor McMichael-T.J. Oshie
Lars Eller-Nic Dowd-Johan Larsson
Martin Fehervary-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Nick Jensen
Trevor van Riemsdyk-Justin Schultz
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes:
*INJURIES: Brock McGinn, upper-body (13 consecutive, 16 total), Nathan Beaulieu, lower-body (9 consecutive, 9 total), Jason Zucker, lower-body (3 consecutive, 40 total), Sidney Crosby, non-covid illness (1 consecutive, 13 total), Radim Zohorna, non-covid illness (1 consecutive, 1 total), John Marino, non-covid illness (1 consecutive, 1 total). 2021-22 Total Regular-Season Man-Games Lost: 259
*The Capitals’ power play is 21st, and their PK ranks 11th. The Penguins PP is 15th and the PK remains second in the NHL.
*Since the beginning of the 2015-16 campaign, no team has defeated Washington more than Pittsburgh (18 wins).
*The Penguins are 9-3-1 in their last 13 games against Washington at PPG Paints Arena dating back to Mar. 20, 2016
*The Penguins begin their 10th set of back-to-back games. This year, the Penguins are 11-3-4 in back-to-backs (7-1-1 on the first night; 4-2-3 on the second night). Pittsburgh’s .722 points percentage in back-to-back games is second best in the NHL behind Calgary (.750).
*The Penguins are 8-0-1 in their third jerseys this season and have outscored opponents by a 38-18 margin in those games.
How to Watch:
TV: ABC, ESPN+; Radio: 105.9 The X