Penguins vs. Capitals, Game 73: Lines, Notes & How to Watch
Emotions usually are pretty high when the Pittsburgh Penguins play Washington.
This time, the stakes are, too, as the Capitals and Penguins prepare to meet at PPG Paints Arena this evening.
The Penguins still hold the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race (pending the outcome of Florida’s home game against the New York Rangers a few hours before the Penguins and Capitals play), but Washington has closed to within four points of them.
Washington has played one more game than the Penguins, but a Capitals victory — especially one in regulation — could sustain their long-shot hopes of qualifying for the playoffs for the ninth season in a row.
Conversely, the Penguins could all but mathematically snuff Washington’s chances with a victory, particularly if the game doesn’t go to overtime.
The Capitals haven’t exactly been surging lately — they are 3-3-2 in their past eight games — although it might look that way when compared to the Penguins, who are 1-5 in their past six.
The Capitals got an enormous boost Thursday, when defenseman John Carlson rejoined their lineup after missing 36 games while recovering from a fractured skill and severed temporal artery suffered when he was struck by a shot Dec. 23.
Washington went 14-18-4 while Carlson was out.
He had an immediate impact in his return, recording a goal and an assist in a 6-1 victory against Chicago while logging 20:01 of ice time.
Although the focus tonight figures to be on the wild-card race, the Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin subplot will play out for the 65th time since they entered the NHL in 2005.
The Penguins have gone 37-23-4 in the first 64 of those meetings. Washington’s record in them is 27-30-7.
Crosby has put up 28 goals and 58 assists and averaged 1.34 points in their head-to-head meetings. Ovechkin has 33 goals and 29 assists and averaged .97 points per game.
Crosby ranks 15th on the NHL’s all-time points list, with 1,494 in 1,180 games, while Ovechkin is 16th, with 1,481 in 1,341. He has gotten nine of those points — five goals and four assists — in the past five games.
Like their teams, both have been good for a very long time.
Unlike their teams, neither seems to be winding down just yet.
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines
Expected Washington Capitals Lines
Penguins power play: 53 for 247, 21.5%, 15th in NHL
Penguins penalty-kill: 47 for 228, 79.4%, 15th in NHL
Capitals power play: 49 for 225, 21.8%, 14th in NHL
Capitals penalty-kill: 34 for 201, 83.1%, 5th in NHL
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes
Evgeni Malkin has at least one point in eight consecutive home games, putting up two goals and 12 assists during that stretch. He also has 24 goals and 48 assists in 57 career games against Washington.
The Penguins have been credited with a league-high 2,075 hits this season.
Jake Guentzel has seven goals in the past 10 games. He has 10 goals and 15 assists in 22 games against the Capitals.
The Penguins are 9-4-1 in their past 14 games against Washington at PPG Paints Arena.
With Kasperi Kapanen gone to St. Louis on waivers, the Pittsburgh Penguins do not have anyone who has recorded a hat trick this season.
The Penguins are just 8-9-5 inside the Metropolitan Division, while Washington is 11-7-3.
Washington center Nicklas Backstrom averages nearly one assist per game against the Penguins, with 54 in 60 games.
The Capitals’ power play is 7-for-16 over the past five games.
Washington center Evgeny Kuznetsov has scored on four of five shootout attempts.
Capitals winger Conor Sheary, who broke into the NHL with the Penguins, has seven goals in 16 career games against them.
Washington’s road record (17-17-3) is nearly identical to its mark at home (17-14-5).
The Capitals announced today that Sonny Milano, who has been playing left wing on the No. 2 line, is injured and will miss at least a week.
How to Watch
Radio: 105.9 the X