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Game 61 Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins @ Washington Capitals 2/23/2020: lines, how to watch

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The top teams in the Metro square off

NHL: FEB 02 Penguins at Capitals Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (37-17-6, 80 points, 1st place in the Metropolitan Division) @ Washington Capitals (37-18-6, 80 points, 2nd place Metropolitan Division based on Pens playing one less game)

When: 12:30 p.m. eastern

How to Watch: National game on NBC

Opponent Track: It’s been slump city for the Caps ever since the All-Star break. The Caps won that first game back but are just 3-7-1 since that point for their worst stretch of the season, losers in six of the last seven games. Like the Pens, they had to play on the road yesterday afternoon. And, like the Pens they lost in regulation to a non-playoff opponent (3-2 @NJD in their case). Alex Ovechkin scored career goal No. 700 and to the amazement of a portion of the fanbase, the game wasn’t immediately stopped for a rose pedal-laden procession around the city of Newark, nor were the Caps automatically handed a victory.

Pens path ahead: The last really distant road trip of the season continues to California to play the trio of under-performing Cali teams of Los Angeles (Wednesday), Anaheim (Friday) and San Jose (next Saturday).

Recent History: The Pens have had the upper hand as of late, going 5-1-0 against Washington since the start of the 2018-19 season.

Season Series: Pittsburgh was in DC three weeks ago to the day of this game, beating the Caps 4-3. Washington will be in the ‘Burgh on Saturday March 7th and Sunday March 22nd to finish out the regular season series. All four games will be afternoon nationally televised broadcasts.

SBN Team Counterpart: Check out Japers Rink for the latest and greatest news about the Capitals.

Possible Lines (based on yesterday’s game)

Forwards

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - TJ Oshie

Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Richard Panik

Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Defense

Brenden Dillon / John Carlson

Michael Kempny / Dmitry Orlov

Jonas Siegenthaler / Nick Jensen

Expected starting goalie: Braden Holtby

Expected Scratches: Travis Boyd, Radko Gudas

Injured Reserve: none

—It was already announced coming into the weekend that Ilya Samsonov would play Saturday afternoon in New Jersey and Holtby would draw the Pens for today’s game, so we get that old familiar matchup. In calendar 2020 Holtby is just 4-6-1 with a .882 save% and 3.48 GAA.

—We’ll have to see if the Caps make any lineup moves. They’ve been rotating defensemen and Kempny was briefly benched for a mistake made on a goal against yesterday. Wouldn’t be shocking to see Gudas draw back into the lineup as they search for some defensive combination that can play well.

—The Caps struggles have been defensive, trying to find cohesion and results outside of the play of the exceptional season Carlson is having. Dillon figures to be a solid pickup for the role they need of a capable and sturdy defender. Deadline deals for Washington have worked out (Kempny) and not (Kevin Shattenkirk) and it’ll be interesting to see how this one goes...Or if they are done adding in the trade market, though salary cap space is very tight.

—And it gives them a Brenden to go along with a Brendan and a Braden. Super basic bros.

And now for the Pens..

Potential Lines (based on Saturday game/projection)

Forwards:

Jason Zucker - Sidney Crosby - Dominik Simon

Dominik Kahun - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust

Jared McCann- Andrew Agozzino -Patric Hornqvist

Brandon Tanev - Teddy Blueger - Sam Lafferty

Defense:

Jack Johnson/ Kris Letang

Marcus Pettersson / Justin Schultz

? / Chad Ruhwedel

Possible starting goalie: Matt Murray

Expected scratches: Zach Aston-Reese (lower body injury), Anthony Angello (healthy), Zach Trotman or Juuso Riikola

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

—Kahun missed the game on Saturday but did take the pre-game skate, so he is very close to being able to play. Perhaps the 24 extra hours will help him feel better? The Pens could use some more speed and skill.

—It’s tough to blame anyone for losing the logic of Sullivan’s defensive personnel decisions at this point. Playing Trotman over Riikola at the 3LD spot makes less than no sense. It feels like Ruhwedel is not coming out of the lineup at this point (until more health returns) but playing a right handed defenseman on the left side is a baffling move, especially since Riikola’s stats and metrics are more than solid considering his limited role. Unless there’s some sort of unreported minor injury as a factor, this just doesn’t add up, and who knows what today’s game will have on the third pair.

—But one thing we do know is that Murray will jump back in against the Caps. Three weeks ago Murray held the fort down in Washington in one of his strongest performances of the season (despite giving up three goals). Can he build on that again?