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Penguins vs. Capitals Preview, 11/10/2017

The Pittsburgh Penguins head down to the nation’s capital for another matchup against the Caps

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports


Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (9-6-2) @ Washington Capitals (8-7-1)

When: 7:08 PM Eastern puck drop

Where (to see): ATT&T Sports Net in Pittsburgh area, NHL Network Nationally

Last time out for both: Pittsburgh beat Arizona 3-1 on Tuesday, Washington lost 3-1 @Buffalo also on Tuesday

Last game in the season-series: The Pens have already played (and won) in DC this young season, beating the Caps 3-2 on October 11th. Pittsburgh scored 3 power play goals (Letang, Hornqvist, Sheary) in the contest, and Matt Murray made 20 saves on 22 shots for the win.

SBN Friends: Japers Rink

Pens Expected Lines and Injuries

Conor Sheary - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist

Jake Guentzel - Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel

Carl Hagelin - Riley Sheahan - Bryan Rust

Tom Kuhnhackl - Greg McKegg - Ryan Reaves

Olli Maatta / Kris Letang

Brian Dumoulin / Chad Ruhwedel

Ian Cole / Justin Schultz

Healthy scratches: Josh Archibald, Frank Corrado

—No changes at all for the Pens on practice in Pittsburgh yesterday morning before flying out for the weekend, as to be expected following a victory on Tuesday night.

Injuries: Matt Hunwick (concussion) - skated on the extra pair in practice, unknown when he will return but seems unlikely for tonight

Caps Expected Lines and Injuries

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeni Kuznetsov - Devante Smith-Pelley

Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - TJ Oshie

Jakub Vrana - Lars Eller - Tom Wilson

Liam O’Brien - Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Christian Djoos / John Carlson

Brooks Orpik / Madison Bowey

Dmitry Orlov / Taylor Chorney

Healthy Scratches: Nathan Walker, Aaron Ness

Injuries: Matt Niskanen remains on LTIR with a broken hand/wrist/finger/whatever, he’s skating and holding a stick but not expected back for another 1-2 weeks....Brett Connolly (concussion) may return in the game after this one but won’t play tonight...Andre Burakovsky broken thumb/hand/finger/whatever was said to be out 6-8 weeks from October 21st and isn’t expected back until sometime in December. Tyler Graovac remains out with a shoulder..Bowey was a late scratch last game and may not be 100%

—The Caps are in an interesting place, they’ve used Ovechkin+Kuznetsov all season, and haven’t quite found the right talent mix to use with Backstrom on the other scoring line yet.

Storylines to Watch

—Backstrom is in the midst of a career-high 7 games without a point. Playing with the 23-year old Stephenson (1g+3a in 7 games this season) is a new experiment with Burakovsky out injured and Vrana not finding much traction with Backstrom. Used somewhat as a matchup/defensive center these days, Backstrom isn’t scoring but still is playing pretty well:

—Being as WSH coach Barry Trotz will be in control of the matchups, one would think he would favor the Backstrom line to match Crosby as much as possible. For good reason, when Ovechkin and Crosby were on the ice together in Game 7, Crosby assisted in what was the game-wining goal. Which means a major key of tonight’s game will be who can break through; Guentzel-Geno-Phil head-to-head a lot of times against Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-DSP. Should be some pretty wide-open offense, and which ever line scores (or scores more) may well tip the balance of which team will win tonight.

--As always though, it will be interesting and a challenge to see if Crosby (just 2 points in his last 5 games) can breakthrough Backstrom’s matchup and score at even. As we’ve pointed out before, though, Hornqvist and Sheary have a combined 3 assists on the season, they could do well to step up a bit at even with their in-zone passing.

—In some ways, Stephenson and Smith-Pelley in the top-6 is a lot like earlier in the season for Pittsburgh with Kuhnhackl on a scoring line - not ideal. Given the Caps lack of depth, and frankly lack of depth talent on the wings now (once you get past Oshie and Ovechkin), they don’t have much of a better choice though at the moment.

—You think Eller knows it’s a UFA season for him? He’s already up to 10 points (3g+7a) in 15 games. Total points in the last 4 seasons (with no significant time missed to injury): 26, 27, 26, 25. He’s on pace for 51 this season, which he probably won’t stay on track for long, but still will be interesting to see how much he exceeds his consistent norms and which foolish team sees this year as a reason to give big money to in the future.

—It’s ironic for two polar opposite and rival teams how much alike the Pens and Caps are. Both boast great skill players but still searching for depth. Both have a great goalie and power play to help them to wins over inferior teams. They both are a combined 0-7 on the second day of back-to-back games, and are 17-6-3 otherwise in the rest of the season.

—Not saying there’s a lot of correlation, but evidence is starting to build that Pittsburgh is much better with Justin Schultz in the lineup. The Pens, with Schultz playing, have a record of 7-0-1 this season in non b-2-b ending games (7-3-1 overall with 3 regulation losses with Schultz on the second night of b-2-b’s).

—The Penguins are 10-7 all-time against Holby (considering OT his record is 7-8-2) with a .914 save% and 2.79 GAA, among his worst numbers against any teams. And this doesn’t even talk about playoffs :)

--Murray vs. Holtby will be a titanic matchup of two of the best goalies in the game staring each other down, and their records reflect that. Murray is 9-3-1 on the year, Holtby 8-3-0, with of course Murray taking the opening battle this season in October.