Photo: Nick Wass/AP
The Washington Capitals will host the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second time this season and the last time at home. Pittsburgh prevailed 3-2 in the first meeting between these two back on October 11. These two teams met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with Pittsburgh prevailing in seven games. Friday marks the six-month mark since the Capitals’ Game 7 loss to the Penguins.
Pittsburgh is 2-3-1 its past six games, most recently a 3-1 decision against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday. During those six games, Pittsburgh has only scored 10 goals and have surrendered 18 of them during that stretch. Captain Sidney Crosby has been going through a rare cold streak, where he has 3 points (all assists) in the past nine games.
Phil Kessel has been very dangerous for the Penguins, leading the way with five goals and 19 points through the team’s first 17 games. Evgeni Malkin leads the Penguins with seven goals and has 18 points.
The Penguins hold the second spot in the Metropolitan Division despite only averaging 2.65 goals per game, which is 24th in the league. They have also given up an average of 3.47 goals per game, which is the 6th most in the NHL.
Since the Penguins last visited D.C., they acquired center Riley Sheahan from the Detroit Red Wings. He has one assist in his first eight games as a Penguin.
The Penguins open their sixth set of back-to-backs on Friday in Washington. They have gone 3-2-1 in the opening game of their previous five back-to-backs, they have scored 14 goals and gave up 15. In the second game of five back-to-backs, they’ve been outscored by a combined score of 31-6. They will fly to Nashville to take on the Predators on Saturday night after stopping in Washington tomorrow.
The Capitals have won four of their past six outings but fell 3-1 against the Buffalo Sabres in their most recent outing on Tuesday. Alex Ovechkin scored the lone goal in the loss, which was his 12th of the season.
The Capitals shook things up at practice on Thursday putting Chandler Stephenson on the top line next to Nicklas Backstrom, who has not scored since an 8-2 loss at the Philadelphia Flyers on October 14, and T.J. Oshie, who has not scored since a 4-3 overtime win at the Detroit Red Wings on October 20. They demoted Jakub Vrana to the third line following the team’s 3-1 loss in Buffalo two nights ago.
The Capitals got some good news on the injury front as defenseman Matt Niskanen, who has been out since October 13 in a 5-2 win at the New Jersey Devils, skated in practice on Thursday wearing a no-contact jersey. Forward Brett Connolly, who has been out since October when the Capitals suffered a 6-2 loss at the Vancouver Canucks, also skated on Thursday but his status is unknown for Friday’s tilt. He has been out with concussion-like symptoms. Tyler Graovac, who has been out with a lower-body injury since October 17, also skated on Thursday.
Friday’s game marks some exciting milestones for the Capitals. Braden Holtby is one win shy of his 200th NHL win. So far this season, Holtby has an 8-3-0 record with a 2.62 goals against average and a .921 save percentage in 11 games played. He has won five out of his last six starts and made 24 saves in the Capitals’ 3-2 overtime victory against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday. Lifetime against the Penguins, he is 7-8-2 with a .914 save percentage and a 2.79 goals against average. Two of his seven wins against the Penguins have been shutouts
Defenseman Dmitry Orlov will suit up in his 300th NHL game on Friday against the Penguins.
–Alex Ovechkin has 31 goals and 52 points in 49 career games against the Penguins
-Washington has gone 7-4-2 in 13 regular season games against the Penguins since Barry Trotz was hired prior to the 2014-15 season
-After finishing last season dead last with 48 man games last, the Capitals already have 36 man games lost heading into Friday night
A Look Back in Time
After the Capitals fell behind 3-1 in the Second Round Series against the Penguins last season, they won 4-2 on Derby Day in May at Verizon Center. The Capitals got goals from Andre Burakovsky, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Alex Ovechkin in the win. The Capitals scored three times in the final frame to force a Game 6 on enemy soil, including two goals in a span of 27 seconds. Washington also won Game 6 5-2 at PPG Paints Arena two days after.
By Harrison Brown