Game Preview: Capitals open five-game homestand against Penguins

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After dropping two straight road games to Carolina and Columbus, the Capitals return home to open up a five-game homestand and finish off their third set of back-to-back games, as they welcome their biggest rivals and the defending Stanley Cup champions to Verizon Center. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. and you can catch the game on the NBC Sports Network, as part of their Wednesday Night Rivalry showcase. 

PITTSBURGH
The Penguins (10-3-2) are second in the Metropolitan Division and are coming off a 4-1 win on Saturday over the Maple Leafs. Goaltender Matt Murray has won 11 straight starts going back to March of last season, which ties him for the second longest winning streak among Pittsburgh netminders. He got a three-year contract extension about a month ago.

The Penguins are undefeated at 3-0 against Metropolitan Division foes this season and have posted a 21-5-1 record in their last 27 division games. Sidney Crosby has been hard for Metro teams to stop during that span, as he’s scored 12 goals and registered 25 points.

Shots Fired:
The Penguins have averaged 32.3 shots per game this season, the fourth best mark in the league. In their last two games, the Pens have posted over 40 shots with a grand total of 90 combined.

Other Notes:
The Penguins know how to put opposing goaltenders under pressure in the shots department, but on the other end of the ice, the Pens have allowed an average of 33.7 shots on goal per game, sitting just behind Maple Leafs (34.3) for the league lead.

WASHINGTON
The Capitals (9-4-2) are coming off a 1-2 road trip where they dropped the last two games. Last night, the Caps fell in overtime 2-1 to the Blue Jackets. The Caps struck first with a goal by Nicklas Backstrom but were unable to hang on. Philipp Grubauer got the start last night which means Braden Holtby gets the nod tonight.

Optional Skate – Coming off an overtime road loss last night, the Caps held an optional morning skate this morning.

Not So Special Teams – The Capitals special teams are still struggling to find answers. The Caps power play is ranked 25th in the league with a conversion rate of 11.9%. The Capitals penalty kill is 18th with an 81.8% success rate. The PK looked great last night, stopping all three Blue Jacket power plays.

Shots Fired – The Caps have outshot their opponent in 11 of 15 games this season. The Capitals are ranked second in the league in games when outshooting their opponent and tied for first in wins when outshooting their opponent with seven. Alex Ovechkin ranks fourth in the NHL in shots this season with 63.

THE MATCHUP
The Capitals are 53-51-9-5 all-time against the Penguins at home. The two teams met just over a month ago to open the season with the Penguins winning 3-2 in a shootout. The Capitals have won just five of their last 18 contests with the Penguins going back to January of 2012. Five of the Caps nine wins over Pittsburgh came with a shutout. Alex Ovechkin looks to have a big game tonight. He hasn’t had a point in his last six contests against Pittsburgh.

Series Flashback:
T.J. Oshie had a hat trick in Game 1 of last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals.

03/01/16
Matt Niskanen scored the game-winning goal in the third period in a regular season meeting last year.

SHAVINGS

  • Nicklas Backstrom scored a goal last night to put the Caps 1-0. It was his second goal of the season.
  • The Capitals begin a season-long five-game homestand tonight.
  • Alex Ovechkin has earned 46 points in 45 career games against the Penguins with 27 goals and 19 assists.
  • Andre Burakovsky scored two goals in the first meeting between the Capitals and Penguins on Oct. 13, his fourth consecutive game he has tallied a point against the Penguins. It was also his second straight multi-point game vs. Pittsburgh.

GAME LINKS:
Capitals-Penguins: The Rivalry (NoVa Caps)
Caps Hope Home Cooking Helps (Mike Vogel)
Game Notes vs. Pittsburgh, 11/16/16 (Capitals PR)
Pregame notes: Trotz says Ovechkin’s low ice time was ‘not a conscious decision’  (WaPo)

By Michael Marzzacco

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