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Daily Primer March 10: Crosby, Ovechkin face off

Monday, 03.10.2014 / 3:00 AM NHL.com

Two of the top stars in the NHL will go head-to-head Monday at Verizon Center.

Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins continue their pursuit of the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference when they face Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US), who are in a heated battle for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Here's a closer look at the action Monday:

Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals -- Pittsburgh is wrapping a five-game road trip after splitting the first four games. The Penguins responded nicely from a 5-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks last Thursday by earning a 3-2 shootout win against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday. Washington trails the Columbus Blue Jackets by one point for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Rookie forward Evgeny Kuznetsov agreed to an entry-level contract Saturday with the Capitals and likely will make his debut Monday. He was Washington's first-round pick (No. 26) at the 2010 NHL Draft.

Nashville Predators at Ottawa Senators -- Nashville has scored three goals in the four games it's played this month, losing all four in regulation. The Predators are 1-5-2 in their past eight games and have fallen 10 points out of the final playoff spot in Western Conference with 18 games remaining. After consecutive losses to the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers, the Senators are aiming to build off their 5-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday. Forward Milan Michalek has five points (one goal, four assists) in his past four games.

Phoenix Coyotes at Tampa Bay Lightning -- The Coyotes lost ground in the Western Conference race Saturday after blowing a two-goal, third-period lead against the Capitals, coupled with a rally by the Dallas Stars against the Minnesota Wild. They'll try to rebound against the Lightning, who are 0-3-1 in their past four games. Steven Stamkos still is searching for his first point since returning from a broken tibia.

Columbus Blue Jackets at Dallas Stars -- This is the finale of a three-game road trip for Columbus, which has managed a split to this point despite a stagnant offense. The Blue Jackets lost 6-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, but goalie Sergei Bobrovsky responded from being pulled in that game to turn in a flawless effort Saturday in a 1-0 victory at the Predators. Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen is day-to-day with a head injury after being hit by Wild forward Erik Haula on Saturday. Tim Thomas, acquired from the Florida Panthers prior to the NHL Trade Deadline, will get the bulk of the starts in Lehtonen's absence.

Winnipeg Jets at Colorado Avalanche -- After an impressive run under new coach Paul Maurice, the Jets are 2-3-2 in their past seven games and are losing ground in the playoff race. Winnipeg went winless on its three-game homestand (0-2-1) after sustaining a 5-3 loss to the Senators on Saturday. Colorado is in prime position to qualify for the postseason; the Avalanche are in third place in the Central Division, 11 points clear of the Wild. Forwards Matt Duchene (11 points in his past seven games) and Ryan O'Reilly (10 points in six) are rolling for the Avalanche.

Los Angeles Kings at Calgary Flames -- The Kings made it seven in a row with a 4-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday. Jeff Carter scored twice for Los Angeles, which has allowed 10 goals over the course of the streak. The Flames return home after sustaining a 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Saturday. Calgary's lone goal came from Brian McGrattan, who ripped a slap shot from center ice that somehow beat Canucks goalie Eddie Lack.

New York Islanders at Vancouver Canucks -- The Islanders blew another two-goal lead in the third period Friday, losing 4-3 to the Flames. New York has led after two periods 20 times this season but has won nine of those games (9-6-5). The Canucks are 2-10-1 in their past 13 games and are fighting for their playoff lives. Vancouver trails the Stars by four points for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference with 16 games remaining.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Anaheim Ducks -- Toronto begins a five-game road trip that could make or break their playoff hopes. The Maple Leafs also will face the Sharks, Kings, Capitals and Detroit Red Wings, teams that are in playoff position or right on the cusp. Toronto has two wins in regulation over the past month and none since returning to action following the Olympic break. The Ducks, meanwhile, have three regulation wins since the start of February and have lost their past two games in shootouts, to the Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins. They now look up to the St. Louis Blues in the conference standings after the Blues beat the Wild in a shootout Sunday.

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