WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Pittsburgh Penguins badly need a win. They had some fun at practice to lighten the mood last week, then again gave up third period goals in a loss to the Seattle Kraken. Tuesday, coach Mike Sullivan shuffled most of his lines and d-pairings. The Penguins are winless in seven, the worst streak of Sullivan’s tenure and the worst since Sidney Crosby’s rookie year. The Penguins are deep in the standings and falling further behind as young upstarts in the Metropolitan Division keep winning.
The Penguins visit a team in a similar situation on Wednesday night when they say hello to the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena. The puck drops just after 7:30 p.m.
The Capitals ended their four-game losing streak on Monday by beating the Edmonton Oilers 5-4. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dylan Strome had two goals in the Capitals’ dose of feel-good.
Like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin has been piling up the points. On Monday, Ovechkin passed Gordie Howe for most goals with one team. Ovechkin is 106 goals short of Wayne Gretzky’s all-time NHL record for goals (894).
Stome is also off to a strong start. The often-dismissed center has 12 points (4-8-12) in 14 games.
The Penguins’ lines underwent significant changes at practice on Tuesday. Based on practice, Kasperi Kapanen will be scratched, Teddy Blueger isn’t ready to return from LTIR, and the Penguins have three new defense pairings. Blueger and Kapanen skated on the Penguins’ extra line.
It should be noted that in the past, Sullivan has used practice to send a message to players but reverted to the typical lineup at game time. However, this has a feeling of real change.
Coaches moved Brian Dumoulin from the top defense pairing to the third pair with Jan Rutta. Marcus Pettersson was elevated to the top pairing with Kris Letang, and P.O Joseph and Jeff Petry skated together.
Petry had good things to say about Joseph.
“He skates well,” said Petry. “Over the last little bit, it seems like he’s playing a little more physically, which I think helps him and helps the defensive side of things.”
The Penguins’ slump is in part due to special teams shortcomings. Dave Molinari spoke with assistant coach Mike Vellucci and the Penguins penalty kill. We also spoke with the Penguins’ power play, including Mike Sullivan’s directive to shoot.
The Penguins have a special teams deficit against Washington, which boasts top-10 units.
The Penguins are in seventh place in the Metro Division, 10 points behind the first-place New Jersey Devils. The Penguins are already five points behind three teams, including the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers, for the second wild-card position with one game in hand.
The likely netminders are Casey DeSmith (0-3-1, 3.25, .904) and Darcy Kuemper (4-5-1, 2.42, .919).
PHN will cover the Penguins morning skate and update the story if any news breaks.
Possible Pittsburgh Penguins Lines
Expected Capitals Lines, per Washington Hockey Now
Penguins Special Teams
Penguins Power Play: 9-45, 20%, 19th
Penguins Penalty Kill: 11-41, 73.2%, 26th
Capitals Power Play: 13-48, 27.1%, 6th
Capitals Penalty Kill-8-42, 81%, 10th
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes:
*The Penguins have been outscored 14-2 in the third period during their seven-game winless streak.
*The Penguins have points in 11 of their last 17 games against the Capitals (10-6- 1).
*The Penguins have also won three of their last four games at Capital One Arena
*Dating to April 12, Jake Guentzel has 13 goals and 23 points (13-10-23) over his last 16 games.
*Sidney Crosby is tied for eighth in the league with six even-strength goals.
*Crosby and Ovechkin have faced each other 62 times. The Penguins and Crosby have a 36-23-3 record. Crosby also has 84 points in those games, including 28 goals (28-56-84). Ovechkin has 61 points (32-29-61).
How to Watch the Penguins Game:
TV: TNT; Radio: 105.9 The X
The Penguins are a massive underdog to win and cover 1.5 (+200). With love those kinds of payouts, especially when the bet is guaranteed. First-time bettors can get the DraftKings promo and the (up to) $1000 insurance. If your first bet loses, DraftKings will give you a second chance.
Interestingly, the Penguins are favored on the Moneyline (-130). The latest DraftKings promo is: bet $5 on the Moneyline and win $200. Click here for promo.
It should be a wild game — it always is at Capital One Arena. Enjoy!