When: 1:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, NBC Sports Washington in the DMV
Opponent Track: The Caps are playing their third game in four days today, they lost 5-2 to Philly on Wednesday followed by a 6-5 OTL at NYR on Thursday. The Caps are just 2-2-1 since beating the Pens a couple weekends ago. Overall they’ve been one of the league’s worst teams since the All-Star break, going just 7-9-2 in the last 18 games and giving up 3.67 goals/game in the stretch.
Pens path ahead: Get ready for the division, the next 10 straight games (and 14 of the remaining 16) for Pittsburgh will feature Metropolitan Division foes. Caps and ‘Canes this weekend at home before hitting the road next week to go to Jersey (Tuesday) then Columbus (Thursday).
Season Series: There have been two games, both played in Washington. The Pens won 4-3 on February 2nd in the first matchup. The Caps returned the favor, winning 5-3 in the second game (with an ENer in there). The fourth and final game of the regular season PIT/WSH set will be two weekends from now on Sunday March 22nd, also back in the ‘Burgh.
Recent history: The Pens are 7-4-0 vs the Caps in the last 11 games overall. And at home at PPG, the Pens have feasted, going 6-1-0 against Washington in the last seven. The Pens have worn out the red light, averaging 5.14 goals/game in that stretch.
SBN Team Counterpart: Our friends at Japers Rink will have you covered from the DC perspective
Tale of the tape
(NHL ranks as of Friday afternoon)
—The Pens and Caps featuring two middle-of-the-road power plays? Now we’ve seen it all.
—Poor goaltending (or goaltending unable to overcome defensive mistakes) could be a culprit that sinks the Caps’ season. Rookie Ilya Samsonov started out the year very Tristan Jarry-like with a .927 save% up through the All-Star break (16 starts). But since then he’s not had much success, falling off with a .873 save% in six games since the break.
—Washington in general has been playing pretty poorly as of late in a very wide-open style. And they haven’t been able to outscore their issues as much as in the past. An understandable midseason funk or a troubling sign of things to come? Their cushion in the division has vanished with Philly and the Pens hot on their heels.
Player Stats at a Glance
—Alex Ovechkin just keeps on tickin’, scored two goals last game against NYR (both in the third period) to enable his team to get into overtime. His 47 goals are a share for the league lead, which in an age-34 season is very unreal. The list of 50+ goal scorers at that age is a pretty short one and one he will surely join.
—Braden Holtby hasn’t really had a good year in going on three seasons now (minus a starring performance in the 2018 playoffs, of course). That slump has continued and showing no signs of stopping. Since the All-Star break Holtby has started 12 games and has a very ugly .894 save% and a 3.36 GAA to his name.
—Old friend Carl Hagelin has gotten more productive as the season has gone on, as we’ve seen time and time again. Hagelin has 15 points (7G+8A) in 26 games played in calendar 2020. Ever the slow starter, he had but one goal and eight assists in the first 30 games he played to start the campaign.
Possible Lines (based on Thursday game)
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Ilya Kovalchuk
Richard Panik - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway
Brenden Dillon / John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov / Nick Jensen
Jonas Siegenthaler / Radko Gudas
Expected starting goalie:
Expected Scratches: Michal Kempny, Brendan Leipsic, Travis Boyd
Injured Reserve: none
—We’ll see if the Caps shake anything up after giving up 6 goals in a loss. Kempny and Gudas have been shuffling in and out of the lineup a little bit.
—It’ll also be interesting to see which very parallel veteran deadline pickup performs better into the playoffs; Kovalchuk for the Caps and Marleau for the Pens. Both seem to fit the reputation and perception of each team’s makeup very well, so I’m expecting them both to contribute.
—Samsonov got lit up for 6 goals against NYR, so presumably they’ll turn back to Holtby for this one, but we’ll see.
Caps coach Todd Reirden sounds almost defeated when addressing a common problem for his team — taking too many obvious and unnecessary penalties. The coach isn’t having much luck corralling them into playing within the rules, which doesn’t bode well for him or them.
And now for the Pens..
Potential Lines (based on Friday practice)
Jason Zucker - Sidney Crosby - Conor Sheary
Patrick Marleau - Evgeni Malkin -Bryan Rust
Jared McCann - Nick Bjugstad - Patric Hornqvist
Brandon Tanev - Teddy Blueger - Evan Rodrigues
Brian Dumoulin/ Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Jack Johnson / Justin Schultz
Possible starting goalie: ?
Expected scratches: Zach Aston-Reese (lower body injury), Juuso Riikola (healthy), Chad Ruhwedel (healthy), Dominik Simon (injured), Anthony Angello (injured), Sam Lafferty (healthy)
Injured Reserve: Jake Guentzel (shoulder)
—No word yet on the goalie. Matt Murray has played the last two and won ‘em both. He was great on Thursday. Does that draw a third straight game? We shall see.
-Aston-Reese skated prior to practice yesterday so at least he’s visually on the path back to the lineup. Simon is further behind. If you’re still keeping track. But this current group is about the healthiest the Pens will be for a while.