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Up next: Alex Ovechkin, Mike Knuble and the Washington Capitals

[SBN Capitals blog - Japers' Rink]

Record: 52-15-12 (1st in East)

Scorers: Alex Ovechkin (46g, 58a), Nicklas Backstrom (31g, 64a), Alex Semin (38g, 40a)

I can't decide which goaltender I despise more this week: Jose Theodore or Tuukka Rask.  Why Rask, you ask?  Well you see, it all has to do with fantasy hockey.

It was a great regular season for Malkin's Stoli Stash, my team in Pensburgh League A.  Undefeated during the regular season, a first round bye - things were looking great.  Till Tuukka Rask (my opponent's goaltender) chose to play like Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur combined.  Theodore, on the other hand, not so much.

But I'm over it.  Truly, I am.  Third place is a decent finish.  If I can even do that.  For what it's worth, Theo and Rask played each other last night (in the real world of hockey) to a 3-2 Washington win in OT, so it's likely Jose gets the bench tonight in favor of Semyon Varlamov anyway.

There are a bunch of undertones to tonight's game, yet at the same time not.  For starters, Washington officially claimed the Presidents' Trophy Sunday night.  For those of you playing at home, this means the Caps have officially finished the season better than every other team in the league, even with three games remaining.  Pensburgh user JohnCarter1966 passed along the following info that he gathered from the Presidents' Trophy wiki page:

There have been 23 President's Trophy winners since '85.  Only 6 were from the Eastern Conference and 17 from the West. 7 President's Trophy Winners have won the Cup. 6 of the 7 were from the Western Conference!

That's something I can live with.  And hey, for extra credit (without looking) try and think of which team in the East won the trophy and the Cup in the same year.  Shouldn't be hard, but you know how these stat things are sometimes...

After that whole trophy thing, we have the goals/points leaderboard.  Both Ovechkin and Crosby are neck and neck for the Rocket Richard Trophy, while Ovechkin also remains in a tight race with Vancouver's Henrik Sedin for the Art Ross.  Both Crosby and Ovechkin have had nothing short of great years and each has already reached the 50+ assist plateau.  Whether they can round it out with 50+ goals each will come down to the wire.

Then there's the regular season record between these two teams.  In a best of four series the Penguins are currently 0-1-2 against the Caps.  This of course means the Caps are 3-0 against the Pens, and you can bet your Rico Fata autographed jersey that they (and the fans) want that to be 4-0 by the end of tonight.

The little pieces, like those just mentioned, are what drives both teams to get onto the ice tonight.  In the big picture though, when you push aside all the personal motives and regular season records, you have to imagine both teams are gearing up for the playoffs.  Yet if there's one thing that's evident in any Caps/Pens match-up, it's that you get a playoff caliber game no matter the time of year.  So take this as a preface to what will no doubt be an exciting postseason.  But before we even get there, let's at least see the Pens manage a regulation win today.  The thought of being swept by Washington and New Jersey in the same season is something I can't bear to accept at the moment.

Puck and thread at 7:30.