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Game 18 Preview: Penguins @ Capitals 2/25/2021: lines, how to watch

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The Pens look to continue their winning ways against the Capitals

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

Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (10-6-1, 21 points, 4th place in the Eastern Division) @ Washington Capitals (9-5-4, 22 points, 2nd place Eastern Division)

When: 7:00 p.m. eastern

How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, NBCSports Washington in DC, also available on ESPN+

Opponent Track: In the last four games the Caps have alternated win-loss-win-OT loss, including falling for a fourth time in five games this season with the Penguins. After tonight, the Caps’ homestand ends and they head up to New Jersey for two afternoon road games on Saturday and Sunday against the Devils.

Pens path ahead: The endless stretch of games against the Caps or Isles continues, shifting 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) and now also on Saturday (3/6).

Season Series: This is already the 6th Pens/Caps game of the season. Pittsburgh is 4-1-0 against the Caps this season. 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 on 2/16 and the 3-2 Pens OT win on Tuesday courtesy Kasperi Kapanen’s goal. 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 6-2-0 vs. Washington since the start of the 2019-20 season (with the Caps being 2-3-3 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

via hockeydb:

—Overall the numbers look pretty nice, but below the surface there are some cold streaks. T.J. Oshie has 1 even strength point in his last 12 games. Nicklas Backstrom has no ES points in his last four. Evgeny Kuznetsov had gone four games without an ES point before he set up the Conor Sheary goal on Tuesday night. In his last six games, Alex Ovechkin has 1G+2A (with all but one assist on the power play). These little mini-slumps at even strength explains a lot as to why the Caps put their lines in a blender and split star power across three different lines.

Possible Lines

FORWARDS

Alex Ovechkin - Lars Eller - Tom Wilson

Richard Panik - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie

Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Conor Sheary

Carl Hagelin - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

DEFENSEMEN

Brendon Dillon / John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov / Justin Schultz

Zdeno Chara / Nick Jensen

Possible starting goalie: ?

Scratches: Daniel Sprong, Jonas Siegenthaler, Trevor van Riemsdyk

IR: Henrik Lundqvist (LTIR), Michal Kempny (LTIR)

—The Caps only had an optional skate yesterday, so it remains to be seen if they’ll continue with the somewhat funky lines above or normalize back to their more traditional setup

—Presumed Washington #1 goalie Ilya Samsonov played his third AHL conditioning game yesterday as he looks to get back in form from COVID and his isolation time. Samsonov lost to the WB/S Penguins 4-2, giving up the four goals on just 19 shots. Based on playing yesterday, probably expect one of Vitek Vanecek or Craig Anderson in the Caps’ net.

And now for the Pens..

Lines

Forwards

Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Kasperi Kapanen

Zach Aston-Reese - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust

Brandon Tanev - Teddy Blueger - Sam Lafferty

Drew O’Connor - Mark Jankowski - Colton Sceviour

Defense

P.O Joseph / Kris Letang?

Mike Matheson / John Marino

Marcus Pettersson / Cody Ceci

Possible starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

Scratches: Chad Ruhwedel, Jason Zucker, Mark Friedman

IR: Juuso Riikola, Evan Rodrigues, Brian Dumoulin, Jared McCann

Taxi Squad: Jordy Bellerive, Josh Currie, Yannick Weber, Emil Larmi

—Jason Zucker has returned to Pittsburgh following a leg injury on Tuesday night. That’s usually not a very promising sign, nor was the pain Zucker showed plus getting off the ice requiring help and on a very gimpy wheel. We’ll see what comes out of that, but leaving the team during a road trip is a tough development for what his future could hold.

—Jared McCann practiced with the team yesterday and is getting a little closer. Probably not close enough to jump immediately back into the lineup, but McCann’s return should be sooner than later at this rate.

—Zach Aston-Reese mentioned that he was taking line rushes again with Malkin yesterday at practice, so presumably the Pens’ forward lines will look a lot like they did at the end of the last game against the Caps, just with the added benefit of having a 12th player in O’Connor get back in.

—Kris Letang’s status remains unknown, Mike Sullivan during his media availability yesterday wasn’t asked about Letang, who missed the last few minutes of the game on Tuesday. The team’s media wing also didn’t specify whether or not Letang participated or not in practice yesterday. Sullivan also didn’t bring up Letang when he talked about injured players on his own, perhaps a hopeful sign if you’re so inclined to take it that way.

Killin’ it

Courtesy of the Penguins, the Capitals no longer have the top power play in the league entering tonight’s game.

Pittsburgh has done an excellent job of stifling Washington’s fifth-ranked power-play unit this season, successfully killing off 15 of 17 chances (88.2%), including nine straight opportunities. Last game, the Pens did not even allow so much as a single shot on goal in the Caps’ two power play chances.

Run it back just like last time

If tonight’s game can look like Tuesday night’s game, you would have to like the Pens’ chances.

“The games that we played in Pittsburgh - whether we won it or lost it - they were low-event games with regard to quality chances,” said Caps coach Peter Laviolette. “[Tuesday] they got them a little bit more than I would have liked, so we’ll try to flip the script on them Thursday.”