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Game 52 Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Washington Capitals 2/2/2020: lines, how to watch

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It’s a Super Sunday hockey day for the Pens and Caps

Pittsburgh Penguins v Washington Capitals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (32-14-5, 69 points, 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division) @ Washington Capitals (35-12-5, 75 points, 1st place Metropolitan Division, 1st place Eastern Conference, 1st place NHL)

When: 12:30 p.m. eastern

How to Watch: NBC

Opponent Track: The Caps are 2-1-0 after the all star break, defeating Ottawa 5-3 on Friday on the road in their last game. Given Washington is tops in the league, they’ve been doing well winning seven of their last nine games overall.

Item to know: Per the Post-Gazette, this will be regular season matchup number 50 between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Overall Crosby has 70 points in 49 career regular season games against WSH (24G+46A). Ovechkin has 56 total games against Pittsburgh with 59 points (35G+24A). Evgeni Malkin, if you were wondering has 63 points (19G+44A) in 44 career games vs WSH.

Head-to-head in the 49 Crosby/Ovechkin games, Sid’s team has quite the commanding 30-17-2 record.

Pens path ahead: Today starts a week-long road trip. It takes on a nicer turn weather-wise as the Pens head @Tampa and @Florida on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. The three days off after today until next game will be a nice way to ease back in.

Season Series: This is game one of the great rivalry. Exactly three weeks from today the Pens will be back in DC for another Sunday afternoon game. The Caps then follow it up by coming to Pittsburgh on Saturday March 7th (afternoon game) and Sunday March 22nd (afternoon game). In typical NHL logic, these are all weekend, national TV type games. Because who needs primetime!

Recent History: Pittsburgh went 3-1-0 vs Washington last year, and overall in the regular season the Pens have gotten the better of the Caps going 6-3-0 in the last nine games. These PIT/WSH games often turn into high scoring track meets, in four of the last nine games the Pens have scored 5+ goals.

SBN Team Counterpart: Check out our buddies at Japers Rink for the latest in Caps Land.

Tale of the tape

—The Caps have been more high octane in the past few months, with a higher xGF and xGA then the Pens. Pittsburgh has been a bit more bunkered down in their game, paying more attention to detail, but also generating less than Washington.

Perhaps quietly, the past 25 games the Pens have been dropping off a bit. In many ways thsi is understandable. Brian Dumoulin has been out for all of it. Sidney Crosby missed a big chunk of it. Jake Guentzel has too. It’s catching up with Pittsburgh a little, even as we saw last game where Philly carried the majority of the play but the Pens used two power play goals (and a Crosby 3v3 OT goal) to grit out the win.

—The Pens have been a bit more quality over quantity lately. Luckily players like Malkin and Rust have been coming through!

Player Stats at a Glance

via hockeydb:

—Ovechkin has gone insane scoring 11 goals in his last five games alone to help earn the NHL’s first star of the month in January. He certainly has been feeling it and rocketing up the ledger for goals in the season, and all-time.

—It’s difficult from the Pens’ perspective not to be a bit envious of the Caps’ durability. 13 skaters have appeared in 49+ of the team’s 52 games to this point. Nine players have perfect attendance of 52 games (10 counting Ovechkin whose only miss came as the league suspension for skipping the All-Star game). More importantly, every important player on the team (sans Nicklas Backstrom who has only missed eight games ) has had incredible health so far.

Possible Lines (based on practice yesterday)

Forwards

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie

Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Richard Panik

Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Defense

Michal Kempny / John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov / Nick Jensen

Jonas Siegenthaler / Radko Gudas

Expected Scratch: Travis Boyd

Injured Reserve: none

—The big news for this game is that Ilya Samsonov will start his second straight game here. And it’s merited — Braden Holtby has just a .876 save% in his last 15 starts dating back to December 1st. Samsonov is at a .937% in the same time period (nine starts). Samsonov is approaching being the 2016 Matt Murray to Holtby’s Marc-Andre Fleury, if he hasn’t already and no one has realized it yet. The Caps really have no reason not to roll with Samsonov for the foreseeable future given the huge discrepancy between the two.

And now for the Pens..

Potential Lines (based on Friday game)

Forwards:

Jared McCann - Sidney Crosby - Dominik Simon

Bryan Rust - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist

Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev

Alex Galchenyuk - Andrew Agozzino - Anthony Angello

Defense:

Jack Johnson/ Kris Letang

Marcus Pettersson / John Marino

Chad Ruhwedel / Justin Schultz

Expected scratches: Dominik Kahun (concussion), Juuso Riikola (healthy), Sam Lafferty (healthy)

Injured Reserve: Nick Bjugstad (core muscle surgery), Brian Dumoulin (ankle surgery), Jake Guentzel (shoulder)

—The Pens recalled Lafferty yesterday, as they head out on the road and only would have had 12 healthy forwards otherwise.

—Coach Sullivan was less than committal yesterday after practice about if Bjugstad and/or Dumoulin would travel with the team or be on the road trip. Bjugstad wasn’t on the ice with the team, and Dumoulin was seen in the fringes but wasn’t on the ice either.