Who: Washington Capitals (2-0-1, 5 points, 1st place Eastern Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (1-2-0, 2 points, t-6th place in the Eastern Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, NBCSports-Washington in DC, nationally the game is on NBCSN in America and Sportsnet in Canada
Opponent Track: After tonight, the Capitals go home for their first home games of the season; two against Buffalo starting on Friday and then they’ll welcome the NY Islanders and Boston Bruins later next week.
Pens path ahead: The NY Rangers come to the ‘Burgh for games on Friday and Sunday. Then next week the Pens hit the road to go to Boston and then to Manhattan to play two more against the Rangers.
Season Series: The Caps come back to Pittsburgh next month on Feb 14+16 (the first another NBC afternoon game). The Pens go to DC on Feb 23+25. At that point the two rivals go their separate ways for quite a while until one final two game series in DC on April 29+ May 1, towards the end of the regular season.
Recent History: The Pens are 7-2-0 vs. the Caps at home in the last nine games, and 3-1-0 vs. Washington since the start of the 2019-20 season (with the Caps being 1-2-1).
SBN Team Counterpart: It’s our friends at Japers Rink for the Caps’ side of things
Player Stats at a Glance
—Washington is already among the NHL’s highest scoring teams with 11 goals in three games. Nine different skaters have a goal. However, six players are without a point and 12/19 players to appear in a game have one point or less.
—The ageless Zdeno Chara is off to a good start on his new team: his 56.5% Corsi% and 58.7% xGF% leads Caps’ defensemen in both categories. He’s been on ice for 3 Goals For and 0 Goals Against at even strength. Chara has been playing close to an average of 20 minutes a game, in part due to heavy usage on the Capitals’ PK group.
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - TJ Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Evgeni Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Daniel Sprong - Lars Eller Richard Panik
Carl Hagelin - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway
Dmitri Orlov / John Carlson
Brendon Dillon / Justin Schultz
Zdeno Chara / Niklas Jensen
Expected starting goalie: Ilya Samsonov
Scratches: Conor Sheary (healthy), Jonas Siegenthaler (healthy), Trevor van Riemsdyk (healthy)
LTIR: Henrik Lundqvist, Michal Kempny
Taxi Squad: Craig Anderson, Daniel Carr, Pheonix Copley, Zach Fucale, Martin Fehervary, Brian Pinho
He said it
"Especially early in the year, we got to find chemistry and we got to learn the system. And the easiest way to do that is play five-on-five."— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 18, 2021
Carl Hagelin talks limiting penalties, adjusting to a new schedule and more following today's practice. #ALLCAPS | @MedStarHealth pic.twitter.com/47P1QyxgQp
Staying at 5v5 has been a challenge for the Caps (and the Pens). Both teams have given their opponents a matching 13 power play opportunities, in just three games for each team.
And now for the Pens..
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Kasperi Kapanen
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Jared McCann - Mark Jankowski - Brandon Tanev
Evan Rodrigues - Teddy Blueger - Colton Sceviour
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Juuso Riikola / Chad Ruhwedel
Scratches: Cody Ceci (healthy)
Expected starting goalie: Tristan Jarry?
IR: Zach Aston-Reese, Mike Matheson
Taxi Squad: Alex D’Orio, Kevin Czuczman, Maxime Lagace, Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Sam Lafferty. Drew O’Connor
—The Pens made a couple minor moves on Monday, shuffling Lafferty to the taxi squad and calling up an extra defenseman in Kevin Czuczman. To make way for them, Anthony Angello and Frederick Gaudreau were assigned to Wilkes-Barre of the AHL.
—The Jarry prediction is more an educated guess at this point, due to Jarry being the first goalie off the ice at practice yesterday, and Casey DeSmith staying late to take extra shots. Typically that points to Jarry playing today, but we shall see.
He said it...
Coach Sullivan on Marino: "We think the sky is the limit for him. We look at him as a veteran guy even though he doesn't have 100 games under his belt. He's a humble kid. I don't think anything really fazes him. We're thrilled that Jim was able to sign him long term."— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 18, 2021
Marino actually has just 59 career NHL regular season games, and four more playoff contests. Despite his poised demeanor he still has a lot of experience to gain at this level.
3 keys to the game:
- Penalty woes. Both teams have cut major ruts to the penalty box. Both teams have really good power plays. Washington has had a much stronger penalty kill earlier in the season. Pittsburgh needs to avoid a bench minor penalty for the first time this season — they took one in the third period on Sunday in a tie game, and it nearly cost them a loss when Ovechkin hit both posts on a rocket shot. The Caps probably won’t miss that golden opportunity again if the Pens carelessly keep handing them out.
- Top six getting on track. One interesting point of practice yesterday was Kapanen took a few drills playing with Zucker-Malkin, giving Crosby a familiar right wing in Bryan Rust. None of Crosby, Malkin, Guentzel, Zucker or Rust have a 5v5 goal so far this season. In fact, other than Crosby the other four best forwards on the team have not scored a goal at all in the first three games. Pittsburgh needs that to change. It’s a lot to ask Kapanen to come in with one practice and make a major difference, but his speed could provide a spark or just naturally the top six could come to life. If it doesn’t, it might not be long before those lines shuffle with Crosby and Malkin seeing personnel on their wings change (like Rust moving to 87’s line) in order to try and jump-start the offense.
- Questions in each net. Do the Caps go back to Samsonov, who played well on Sunday except for a turnover that gifted the Pens a Sceviour goal? Samsonov’s backup in Vitek Vanacek played well in his first taste of NHL action last week. On the flip side, do the Pens try to get Jarry back on track after two games to forget in Philly? If not, they can at least feel pretty well about going back with Casey DeSmith who earned the win on Sunday. Either way, both teams have something to think about for a decision on which of their respective goalies to play.