Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (9-6-1, 19 points, 4th place in the Eastern Division) @ Washington Capitals (9-5-3, 21 points, 2nd place Eastern Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, NBCSports Washington in DC, NBC Sports Network nationally in America
Opponent Track: Since we last saw the Capitals a week ago today in a 3-1 win over the Pens, they’ve gone W-L-W, all at home. First was a 3-1 win on Thursday over Buffalo, followed by a 4-1 loss on Saturday afternoon to NYR, and then a 4-3 win over New Jersey on Sunday afternoon.
Pens path ahead: The Pens will stay in DC for another game on Thursday. Then they jump up to the Island for games on Saturday and Sunday. Then next week Pittsburgh finally gets to play a non-NYI/Washington team when the Flyers come to Pittsburgh next Tuesday (3/2) and Thursday (3/4).
Season Series: This is already the 5th Pens/Caps game of the season. Pittsburgh is 3-1-0 against the Caps this season with all the games being played so far in the ‘Burgh. The Pens won a shootout on 1/17, and an OT game on 1/19. On 2/14 it was a 6-3 Pittsburgh win, followed by Washington bouncing back for a 3-1 win a week ago on 2/16. After this week the Pens and Caps will finally go separate ways for a while, the season series between the two concludes on April 29th and May 1st, also in DC.
Recent History: The Pens are 5-2-0 vs. Washington since the start of the 2019-20 season (with the Caps being 2-3-2 on their side of the results with some OT/SO losses).
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out Japers Rink for the latest in Caps land
Player Stats at a Glance
—It’s never a secret who to watch for on the Caps in the offensive zone: Backstrom, Ovechkin, Carlson, Wilson, Oshie and Vrana do almost all the damage. Everyone else, not very much. It’s not an insult to say this is a top-heavy team because it is, much like the Penguins are. But the Caps usually rack up the wins because their talent at the top of the lineup can overpower the opponent’s.
—In net might be the most interesting current storyline. Ilya Samsonov was intended to be the #1 goalie this season, but so far a bout with COVID has totally derailed his season, Samsonov has not played in the NHL since the 1/17 game against the Pens. He recently completed a two game conditioning stint in Hershey to get the rust off and play in some games and should be returning to the lineup very soon, perhaps as soon as today. In his stead, Vanecek started 13 games in a row and appeared to be fading a bit until a really good performance last week against the Pens. Veteran Craig Anderson also played fairly well on Sunday against NJ.
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Conor Sheary - Lars Eller - Richard Panik
Carl Hagelin - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway
Brendon Dillon / John Carlson
Zdeno Chara / Justin Schultz
Dmitry Orlov / Nick Jensen
Possible starting goalie: ?
Scratches: Daniel Sprong, Jonas Siegenthaler, Trevor van Riemsdyk
IR: Henrik Lundqvist (LTIR), Michal Kempny (LTIR)
Sheary biting back on Pens
Be it with Buffalo or now Washington, Conor Sheary sure does have a weird way to show his appreciation for the Penguins, the team to sign him as an undrafted free agent and cultivate his talent to the NHL level. Sheary has scored 5 goals in 7 total games against the team he won the Cup with. (I guess to be fair they also traded him once and didn’t really try to retain his services as a free agent, so he’s got a point).
Sheary’s line was totally dominant against the Pens last week, generating two goals and going up a lot against Crosby and putting up some really, really good possession numbers.
Damn near impossible for one line to play a game more perfect than this. pic.twitter.com/hpuTzMG39h— Adam Gretz (@AGretz) February 17, 2021
As many ‘round these parts still remember, Sheary can be a very streaky scorer but also one capable of putting up points in bunches when he is “feeling it”. Well he is now too, scoring against the Pens last Tuesday, and then adding another goal against another ex-team in Buffalo on Thursday.
Those goals aside, it’s been a great month for Sheary, who became a father for the first time a few weeks ago with the birth of his daughter. Hopefully last week he got all the celebrating out of his system.
And now for the Pens..
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Kasperi Kapanen
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Sam Lafferty - Mark Jankowski - Colton Sceviour
P.O Joseph / Kris Letang
Mike Matheson / John Marino
Marcus Pettersson / Cody Ceci
Possible starting goalie: Tristan Jarry
Scratches: Chad Ruhwedel, Drew O’Connor
IR: Juuso Riikola, Evan Rodrigues, Brian Dumoulin, Jared McCann
Taxi Squad: Jordy Bellerive, Josh Currie, Yannick Weber, Emil Larmi
—The Pens basically had no changes to the lineup in practice yesterday in Pittsburgh before they departed town. Kapanen, a victim of the doghouse, was back on the top line with Crosby. Joseph, despite a few down games as of late, remained with Letang on the top pair.
—Jared McCann will travel with the Pens on this road trip, an encouraging sign for the forward. Not so good news for Brian Dumoulin, who will not be with the team at least for the start of the road trip.