The last time that the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins met on the same ice surface was last Spring in an epic 7 game series that featured loads of offensive talent from the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, and Nicklas Backstrom.
Tonight, the two teams will finally meet for the first time this season. Game time is set for 7:30 at the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. The game will be televised on FSN Pittsburgh, and can be heard on the radio at 105.9 The X.
A look at the Caps
The Capitals have been an absolute powerhouse offensively thus far this season, and that potent offense has paid dividends in the overall standings. They currently sit in 1st place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 31-12-6 for 68 points, 1 point ahead of the New Jersey Devils and 5 points ahead of the Penguins.
Their offense has scored an incredible 185 goals this season. In comparison, the Penguins have scored the 2nd highest number of goals in the east, and their total is 163. Much of their success is due to their top-ranked power play, which is clicking at 25%.
Washington’s defense, as it was in last year’s playoffs, is their biggest weakness. They allow quite a few goals (138 on the year), but their incredible offense makes up for their goals against.
The Caps have only lost 3 games in regulation at home, but they’ve been much more human on the road. Their road record is 14-9-3. In their last 10 games, they have a record of 7-3-0, and they are currently riding a 4 game winning streak.
Players to watch
Alex Ovechkin: Any discussion of the Capitals has to begin with Ovechkin, who is having yet another monster year despite missing 8 games due to injuries and a suspension. The great 8 is a threat every time that he touches the puck, and can score with his wicked wrist shot from just about anywhere. He currently leads the Caps in scoring with 30 goals and 35 assists for 65 points.
Nicklas Backstrom: Backstrom might be one of the most underrated playmaking centers in the league. Although his primary job is to feed pucks to Ovechkin, he can also score some goals for himself. He is currently in 2nd place in caps scoring with 20 goals and 35 assists for 55 points.
Mike Green: Green, a candidate for last year’s Norris trophy for best defenseman, actually struggles mightily with his defensive game. However, he is one of the best offensive defenseman in the game, joining the rush or starting a rush whenever he possibly can. He currently has 50 points on the year (12G, 38A)
Last year, it was rookie Semyon Varlamov who stole the show in the playoffs. Varlamov got off to another good start this year, but he has been sidelined with a groin injury for the past few weeks.
Currently, starting time is being split between Jose Theodore and rookie Michal Neuvirth. Theodore has a 14-7-4 record, a 2.85 GAA, and a .906 save percentage. Neuvirth has a 5-4-0 record, a 3.27 GAA, and a .892 save percentage.
Varlamov (groin), Erskine (upper body), Pothier (undisclosed)
The last time that the Pens and Caps met was on May 13, 2009 in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. After a series full of close games, the Pens came out with a stunning 6-2 victory to eliminate the Caps.
After being hit from behind by Andy Sutton on Tuesday, Pascal Dupuis is not expected to play tonight. Max Talbot was injured in that contest as well, and he is not expected to play, either.
In their place, Dustin Jeffrey and Nick Johnson were recalled from Wilkes-Barre of the AHL.
Jeffrey played in 14 games with the Pens last season, scoring 1 goal and 2 assists. He currently leads the Baby Pens in points with 43 (13G, 30A).
Johnson is expected to make his NHL debut tonight. He currently ranks 5th in Wilkes-Barre scoring with 22 points (7G, 15A).