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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final

Live blog: Sid vs. Ovi, Round 1

Friday, 01.22.2010 / 12:13 AM / Blog Central

By NHL.com Staff

CAPS 6, PENGUINS 3: It's on to Round 2 on Feb. 7
01.22.2010 | 12:13 AM ET

I figure you guys are about finished hearing from me, so to close this sucker out tonight I'm going to post some quotes that we got in the dressing rooms:

OVECHKIN

"When you're on the ice you don't try to think about Game 7. You know they are an unbelievable team and they play well. They're experienced guys, but you want to improve. We want to be in that spot where they were last year."

"We have great experience, especially the last two years when we lost in the first round and last year the second round to this team. When you get this experience, you have to realize when you go to the playoffs, it's nothing. You have to push forward and take it to the max. When you take it to the max you get good results and everybody is happy."

BOUDREAU

"We've been scoring an awful lot of goals lately that we really felt we were going to get a couple tonight. One goal wasn't going to beat us. We weren't going to get all … blinded by one goal. We thought we were going to score a couple goals tonight."

"We're all dreaming about (being Stanley Cup contenders). I don't know whether we are or not. We haven't faced Chicago yet and they look pretty darn good on TV when we watch them. Detroit looks good. These guys are going to be great. Fleury always comes up big in the playoffs and you never know what happens at the trading deadline. Who helps who? I think New Jersey has been a thorn in our sides all year. I think, looking at the 50 games that every team has played that we have to be up there in the -- I'd better mention San Jose or they'll get mad at me. Watching as many games as I do, we have to be considered in the top third of the League. I would think. With that in mind, then you think you have a chance at doing something. Playoffs are a different animal and still a lot of games away."

STECKEL

"We didn’t really go into it with intentions that this was a revenge game for last year's playoffs. They're a completely different story. We wanted to come in tonight and just play a good road game. We haven't been playing well early in games lately. We came out and I thought really took it to them. And they're a top team. Any time you can beat a top team in the Eastern Conference you're excited."

CROSBY

"I mean we were doing some good things and Theodore made some good saves and Gonch hit the crossbar; that happens, you play good hockey and don't always get two or three goal leads. We know against them, they are a good team and we knew it was going to be a tight game. Like I said, the third was basically the difference there. They get a couple of big ones and we didn't."

"What did they get, a couple on their power play? We at least gotta tie them in that category. We had an opportunity in the third and we would have liked to get one there. We moved the puck around pretty well. But, that's an area we need to improve on, but is not going to happen overnight. We did some good things."

BYLSMA

"Special teams were obviously decisive in the game. We just found ourselves fighting from behind. Killing their two power plays off would have been a big factor. We lost the special teams battle."

STAAL

"I felt like we played pretty hard. Our best asset last year was turning it around when they scored a big goal, and we couldn't do that tonight. We'll be ready for the next one."

-- Dan Rosen

LIVE IN-GAME BLOG
01.21.2010 | 7:35 PM ET

THIRD PERIOD

20:00: The teams are back on the ice. It's 3-3 and the third is about to begin. Fasten your seatbelts.

17:28: Fleischmann goes in for a breakaway after beating Nick Johnson to a great outlet pass by Semin and the Caps now have a 4-3 lead. Johnson tried to knock down Semin's deliberate pass up the ice, but he missed it, allowing Fleischmann to go in alone on the breakaway with lots of speed. Fleischmann went to the blocker side and beat Johnson. Three of the four goals have now been on Johnson's blocker side. Carlson picked up the secondary assist, so now he again has his first NHL point.

17:01: The Caps are going on the power play. Bill Guerin to the box for interference.

16:35: Well, now it's 5-3 as Nicklas Backstrom scores his 21st of the season and the Caps second power play goal of the night. Fleischmann got Backstrom the puck behind the goal and he curled around the right post, but no Penguin came near him, leaving Backstrom an open shot. He went glove side this time and beat Johnson. The Penguins have to regroup fast as this one is getting out of control early here in the third. Not a bad start to the third period for Fleischman, eh? A goal and an assist for him. He's got 17 goals and 16 assists now.

12:35: Good shift by the Fedotenko-Malkin-Johnson line, but Theodore turned aside the one shot by Gonchar and the Caps got it out. The Caps first line of Ovi-Backstrom-Knuble was on the ice at the time.

11:15: Three big stops in a row by Theodore. First on Jordan Staal and then two on Guerin. He's looking good so far in preserving this two goal lead.

9:24: The Penguins are going on their fourth power play of the night as Backstrom goes to the box for slashing. They are 0-for-3 and have five shots in the six minutes of PP time. They need to capitalize here. I know, bold statement, right?

7:24: The Pens used the open ice to create some nice plays, but I counted only one shot on the power play. It was too much of that pretty stuff and not enough grit. That won't cut it on the power play.

5:21: Good stop by Theodore on a hard shot by Letang. Theodore has been very good in this period. He has nine saves.

4:00: Penguins have a new line on the ice with Crosby, Guerin and Cooke up against Ovi, Backstrom and Knuble. Cooke replaced Tyler Kennedy on Crosby's line for that shift, but it didn'tmatter much.

3:26: Now Staal is with Malkin and Fedotenko.

2:11: The 17,000 plus fans are starting to file out of here. The Caps still lead 5-3 and time is running short on the Cup champions. 

1:32: Timeout Penguins. With the faceoff near Theodore, Johnson is staying on the Penguins bench. It's 6-on-5. Ovi is on the ice with David Steckel and Matt Bradley and will no doubt be looking for the empty netter.

0:25: And there it is for Ovi, the empty net goal. His second of the night, capping a strong 2-goal, 1-assist effort for No. 8.

0:00: That'll do it from here folks. Caps win 6-3. Time to run downstairs for the postgame interviews. Stay tuned to NHL.com for all of our postgame coverage. Hope you enjoyed the blog.

SECOND PERIOD

20:00: Nate Ewell of the Caps P.R. department told us between periods that Green is injured and he's day to day. No further word from the team on this one.

17:47: Tonight's attendance is 17,132 and it's the 143rd straight sellout here.

17:38: The Caps take a 2-1 lead on Eric Fehr's 13th goal of the season. Jason Chimera shot the puck on goal and Johnson steered it behind the net, but Fehr was there and he appeared to bang it in from behind the goal off of Johnson's backside. Carlson had the secondary assist for his first career NHL point.

17:10: And the Penguins tie it up at 2-2 just 28 seconds later with a goal from Nick Johnson, the rookie in his debut game. What a big moment for him. There was a shot on Theodore and then a rebound attempt by Fedotenko. The puck was loose in front and Johnson put it on his forehand and put in what was actually a relatively easy goal. Had to be pretty cool for him to go down the bench in the handshake line.

13:14: It's a TV timeout so let's recap this a bit. Carlson with his first NHL point in his sixth game. Johnson with his first NHL goal in his first NHL game. Not bad for the rookies, especially in a big game like this one.

11:47: Orpik got popped by Knuble about 15 seconds after he popped Ovi. After the hit by Knuble, Orpik came up a little slow. We'll watch this one as the game has intensified here with more hitting than we have seen yet.

11:15: The Penguins are going on their third power play of the night as Carlson is going to the box for hooking. It's his first career penalty in the NHL.

10:05: Fedotenko hits the cross bar with a shot from the point.

9:14: One second after the penalty to Carlson expires Letang exacts some revenge for getting beat by Ovi earlier by beating Theodore high on the stick side with a pretty one-timer to make it 3-2 Penguins. Malkin dug the puck out of the corner and got it to Fedotenko, who passed it up to the point for Letang. The one-timer went high into the right corner. It's Letang's third of the season. Up until now he was having a forgettable game.

6:35: Orpik appears to  be fine. I think he just got bloodied, maybe a cut on his lip. He's  OK. After icing the puck, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau is now using his timeout. He has to rest the guys on the ice as they have been out for a longer than normal shift. It's Semin, Laich, Fleischmann, Schultz and Poti.

4:11: Ovi went around Crosby on a rush to the net but he appeared to get held by Letang as well and finally the Caps are going on the power play, but not before a TV timeout. The Capitals own the League's best power play at 25.1 percent, but it just has been used sparingly lately. They'll get a chance to tie the game now. Could be a vital power play for them.

3:35: Ovi strikes on the power play and makes it 3-3 with his 31st goal of the season. Brendan Morrison passed him the puck at the top of the zone and Ovi wasted little time in ripping a wrist shot that beat Johnson low on the blocker side. That would give Ovi a goal and an assist tonight and Sid also has a goal, but he's still lacking the assist.

2:19: They just announced that Shaone Morrisonn, not John Carlson is getting the assist on the Capitals second goal, the one by Fehr. Too bad. Carlson is again still searching for his first career point, but he had a few minutes to celebrate what could have been.

2:08: Fleischmann just leveled Letang with a clean hit near the boards and Letang appeared to go facefirst into the partition that holds the glass up. He was slow to get up, but he got up and skated to the bench, not the locker room.

0:00: The second period ends in a 3-3 tie, which means the third period promises to be a must-watch event. The Penguins now have 25 shots and the Caps have 24. Neither goalie has been particularly stellar, but that's OK. The stars are most definitely out in this one and the intensity picked up in the second period. Looking forward to the third. About to get on Washington Capitals radio and chat about this one between periods.

FIRST PERIOD

20:00: Nick Johnson is getting the start in his first career NHL game and he's on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Ruslan Fedotenko.

17:48: Great scoring chance for Semin after a Pens turnover, but Johnson was there for the stop. Semin should have probably shot quicker to make Johnson have a tougher save.

16:30: Crosby finally gets on the ice. The line of Rupp-Staal-Cooke was out there for what seemed like forever. Their time included an icing.

16:04: Ovi just kicked Backstrom out of the faceoff circle against Malkin. He tried to win the draw by pushing it forward to create a breakaway. It didn't work. Shawn wants me to call that "cheekey." I'm not even sure if I spelled that right.

15:38: We've got a goal, and a very weird one. I am not sure I can even describe this one accurately. Theodore misplayed the puck as he came out of the net. The puck went toward the net, off Fedotenko and then off Theodore again. The puck was right on the goal line. Nobody brushed it away and Crosby knifed through and pushed it over. Strange, but true. 1-0 Penguins. Crosby's 33rd of the season. I may need to see that replay about 1,000 more  times to accurately figure out what happened. The big problem was the misplay by Theodore.  Malkin and Fedotenko got the assists.

12:11: Knuble had a wide open chance right in front on a tip, but Johnson was right there to stop him with a glove save. Best chance of the night for the Caps so far and it came after a Jeff Schultz shot from the point.

11:45: Ovi touches the puck and takes it down the left wing boards. Everybody in the crowd (well, nearly everybody) boos. He makes a great pass to a cutting Knuble, but it didn't result inanything.

11:12: Malkin and Johnson go in for a 2-on-1 on a delayed penalty. Theodore makes the stop, but Shaone Morrisonn goes to the box for holding.

11:10: Gonchar hits the post with a point shot.

7:33: Crosby has a great chance on the backhand right in the slot, but Theodore has apparently put the bad goal behind him because he made a great save on that one and then closed his legs on the puck off the rebound shot, freezing it and allowing for a TV timeout. The Penguins power play did not look good a few minutes ago.

5:36: Caps tie it up as Ovi makes Kris Letang look like a pylon in going around him and straight to the net. Knuble darted there too and cleaned up for his 14th of the season off the rebound of Ovi's shot. That's Ovi's 36th assist of the season and a darn pretty one if you ask me. Letang is still looking around for Ovi and the puck. It wasn't even fair the move Ovi made on him to go around him in the left circle. So now it's 1-1.

4:05: We're in a TV timeout. Just have to quickly say that the stars are shining tonight. Crosby nets his 33rd and Ovi dances around Letang and picks up his 36th assist. Malkin also got his 31st assist on Crosby's goal, though he had little to nothing to do with it.

1:50: The Penguins are going on their second power play as Semin is going to the box for holding. It'll be interesting to see how they look on this PP because the last one was dreadful.

0:00: The PP looks better, but hasn't resulted in anything but some ooos and ahhhs from the fans for close but no cigar chances. It's 1-1 after the first period. The Pens will still have nine seconds left on the PP when the second period opens. The shots are 15-13 in favor of the Capitals.

Intro has begun

This will be your live in-game blog. The lights are out here at Mellon Arena and the intro is playing as we await the faceoff in what definitely is the most hyped game of the regular season so far. Well, outside of the Winter Classic, of course.

-- Dan Rosen

Green out, Gonchar in
01.21.2010 | 7:30 PM ET

John Carlson will get thrown into the belly of this rivalry tonight as he will replace Mike Green on the Caps' blue line. Carlson knows a bit about high stakes games, of course. He is a USA Hockey hero having scored the OT winning gold in the World Juniors gold medal game against Canada a little over two weeks ago.

Green didn't look right this morning as he was trying to take off his equipment and he apparently couldn't get any better to go tonight. We'll learn more about his status either during the game or after it, but right now everybody on the Caps' side is playing it close to the vest.

This is a blow for Green, who had to be hoping for some redemption tonight after his sub-par showing in last season's playoff series. His play in that series and really the entire playoffs may have cost Green his spot on Team Canada for the upcoming Olympics.

Meanwhile, Gonchar is a go for the Penguins, which isn't terribly surprising. He played 28 shifts totaling 26:59 two nights ago against the Islanders.

It's also official that Pascal Dupuis and Maxime Talbot are not in the lineup tonight, though they were not expected to play anyway.

The live game blog is about to begin.

-- Dan Rosen

Green, Gonchar take warm-ups
01.21.2010 | 7:10 PM ET

UPDATE: Green took only one rush during the line rushes. That's not a good sign. Again, it's all speculating until we see the lineups.

Both Caps defenseman Mike Green and Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar are on the ice for warm-ups right now.

The teams listed them as gametime decisions since both are nicked up. Just because they're out there for warm-ups doesn't really mean much. They could be testing their injuries out and wind up finding out they can't go.

We'll have to wait until the lineups are out to see if they will be in.

It's pretty easy to spot Gonchar and Green. They are two of only seven players out there who are not wearing helmets. The others are Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, Craig Adams and Eric Godard.

-- Dan Rosen

Let's get this thing started
01.21.2010 | 6:45 PM ET

We're up in the press box here at Mellon Arena and both Shawn and I as well as Dan Steinberg from the Washington Post could have used a shirpa to get up here.

As it turns out, we were trying to walk up as we usual do, but we just couldn't seem to find our way. Then, after talking with a friendly security guard named Rich, we found out you can't walk up anymore.

Apparently some unruly fans got up here and who knows, maybe they got into Mario's booth. That's a no-no, folks. We took the elevator and made it here safely.

It's a lively press row and all of us up here can't wait for the game to start. The security guards are in position and fans are slowly streaming into the building.  For some reason there is an odd thin layer of smoke in the rafter. No clue why. It's an old building and doesn't have the greatest ventilation.

I'll be live blogging this thing and will be back soon after warmups, which should be starting here shortly.

Stay tuned.

-- Dan Rosen

The other Alex
01.21.2010 | 5:09 PM ET

While everyone wanted to talk about Alex Ovechkin invading Mellon Arena on Thursday night, Sidney Crosby took some time out to praise another Alex -- Caps forward Alex Semin.

Semin has 20 goals and 44 points in just 40 games, but he is often overshadowed by Ovechkin, his more vivacious Russian peer. But, Crosby has certainly taken notice. 

"He's got great hands and can shoot the puck," Crosby said Thursday morning. "He's a great skater, so he's really dangerous. They have a lot of guys both up front and on D that can score and make plays, so they have a lot of guys who can create a lot."

--Shawn P. Roarke

Look who it is
01.21.2010 | 4:05 PM ET

It was a strange sight inside the small TV studio adjacent to the Caps dressing room at Mellon Arena this morning. There was Bruce Boudreau conducting his morning briefing with a media contingent of about 20 folks, but as I turned my head quickly to cough I saw Alex Ovechkin just sitting there on a table, waiting patiently and quietly.

When was the last time Ovechkin went unnoticed in a room full of reporters?

I'm going to say never, and I think I'm fairly accurate on that one.

I whisked myself out of the scrum with Boudreau and made it over to Ovechkin, joking with him that I'm going to get my exclusive and get out of there. He said, "You sure you want to do that. The rest of these people would kill you. I'm out of here in five minutes."

He was right. Being the polite and respectful reporter that I am (wink, wink), I didn't just start firing questions at him while all of my media cohorts were still with Boudreau. It just wouldn't have been right, so I waited even if I didn't really want to.

It took all of about 10 seconds before the rest of the people in the room noticed Ovi standing there as well. And, as they came over, his session began.

Ovi answered questions about the rivalry and again commented on how it's just one of 82 for the Capitals and Penguins but obviously much bigger for the media and fans.

"For us it's the same game," he said. "It's the regular season, not playoffs. It's two good teams playing against each other and it's going to be a pretty good game."

I brought up the idea of Ovi being maybe a bit more passive these days, a story that can be found here, and some of the other reporters played off of that. One basically asked: What's the deal with you having more assists than Crosby (35-31) while Crosby has more goals than you (32-30)?

Ovi smiled and told one of the best lies of the day.

"I think we just call each other this summer and he asked me how to score goals and I asked him how to get assists," Ovechkin joked, drawing a roaring laugh from the media.

Obviously, Ovechkin and Crosby did not call each other this summer and trade secrets. They don't do that. They admire each other and respect each other, but they are not friends. They are closer to enemies than friends, and that's what makes this rivalry so real, so raw, so good.

I'm not sure about you, but I can't wait for 7:30 tonight.

In regards to Ovi, Boudreau was asked (before I noticed Ovi in the room), if he thinks No. 8 is getting tired of winning all the personal awards yet still losing to Crosby in the team game, such as at the 2005 World Juniors and in last year's playoffs?

Boudreau said he couldn't answer that one for Ovi, but he did mention how any time Ovi wins a personal award now such as the Hart Trophy, which he has won in back to back seasons, he mentions how he would trade it in a heartbeat for the Stanley Cup.

Then Boudreau told an interesting story about a conversation he had with Ovi last year.

"I said, 'I want to play you a little bit more to see if you can catch Malkin (for the scoring title),' " Boudreau recalled. "He said, 'I don't care about that. I only care about one trophy.' That was probably with about eight or 10 games to go."

-- Dan Rosen

Well said by Bylsma
01.21.2010 | 2:22 PM ET

A reporter today said in a question to Penguins coach Dan Bylsma that in the beginning of this rivalry it was more about Sid and Ovi but now it appears it's more about the Penguins and Capitals. He then asked if that was a good thing for all involved?

Bylsma surprised me with his answer.

"I think one of the things hockey has not been great at is identifying their stars and using their stars for publicity and putting the game in the forefront and making it a story," he said. "They have that with Sid and Ovi and they have done that with Sid and Ovi and there are some other matchups that are that way as well. That's a great thing for our game, but hockey always will be about the team. Good players can only be out there a third of the game. There are another two thirds for the other guys to play and one player is never a key on the ice at a time. It's five guys. The power play is about a five man unit and being dangerous. That's the strength of the Capitals power play. Yes, we talk about Ovi. And, yes, there is his shot. But, there are other guys that make him dangerous as well. We're going to be focused on making sure we play a five man game and not try to make it a head to head matchup. That's the strength of our team last year. We certainly have great skilled players, but it's a team game and you need a team concept and you need to play the right way to have success. That will be our focus and always has been our focus."

-- Dan Rosen

Morning notes from the visiting room
01.21.2010 | 2:12 PM ET

Here's what you need to know about the Capitals heading into tonight's showdown at Mellon Arena:

* Defenseman Mike Green is a gametime decision as he's battling an undisclosed injury that I believe is related to his upper body from a hit he took Tuesday night. Todd Bertuzzi got Green pretty good and the star blue-liner did not practice Wednesday. He skated this morning and played coy about his status, but did admit he'll be a gametime decision and that's exactly what Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said, too.

* Just in case Green can't go, the Caps recalled USA Hockey hero John Carlson, who rose to prominence with his overtime winner in the gold medal game at the World Juniors that propelled Team USA to a win over Canada. Carlson would likely play if Green can't go. He was called up Wednesday.

"We have a couple of guys that have some ouchies and we wanted to make sure we're right there, that we have enough guys," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "And, he's played well for us. It's a gametime decision."

* Boudreau, though, said he would not consider playing Carlson with fellow youngster Karl Alzner even though they have been paired together this season in Hershey.

"It would be a great way to baptize both of them together, but I really haven't thought of them playing together if they were both in the lineup," the coach said.

* Defenseman Brian Pothier did not make the trip with the team and John Erskine appears to definitely be out again as he stayed on the ice long after his teammates left. Quintin Laing and Michal Neuvirth also stayed on the ice.

* Jose Theodore will obviously get the start in net. He's been brilliant lately with wins in four straight games, including three straight starts. He has a 1.67 GAA and .951 save percentage over that span and stopped 44 of 46 shots in stealing Tuesday's win from the Red Wings.

"You know what, when you get good goaltending everything else sort of is good," Boudreau said. "It makes the players play with confidence. They can take a couple more chances because they know the goalie is there. Conversely, when goaltending isn't good you say, 'I can't make this mistake because it's going to end up in our net.' We hope he continues the trend he's had the last couple of games."

* Former Capitals' goalie Brent Johnson will be in the other net for the Penguins tonight and nobody seems to be sure who has the advantage: The Capitals shooters because they know Johnson's strengths and weaknesses or Johnson because he knows where the Capitals' shooters like to shoot.

"We'll see tonight who knows better, but he knows everybody here well and we know him," Ovechkin said. "Of course he's going to tell something to the defense about what I do and Semin do and Backie do. It's OK. It's a big challenge for us and a big game for us."

* Johnson is 4-0-0 with a 1.15 GAA lifetime against the Capitals, but he has never faced them in the Ovechkin era as he started his four-season run with the team in 2005-06, Ovi's rookie year.

"I saw (Johnson) in the morning skate, he was so concentrated," Ovi said. "Normally he's smiling and laughing, and right now he's concentrating on the puck. It's good for him."

-- Dan Rosen

Pens shuffle lines for call-ups

01.21.2010 | 1:42 PM ET


With both Max Talbot (lower-body injury) and Pascal Dupuis (facial injuries) missing from Thursday's morning skate, the Penguins shook up their lines during a spirited 45-minute session that featured extensive work on the power play.

Here is what the lines looked like:

Bill Guerin-Sidney Crosby-Tyler Kennedy
Ruslan Fedotenko-Evgeni Malkin-Nick Johnson
Matt Cooke-Jordan Staal-Mike Rupp
Dustin Jeffrey-Craig Adams-Eric Godard

After the skate, Bylsma said he expects big things from Jeffrey and Johnson, who will called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this morning.

"They should be comfortable with our system and how they're supposed to play and what they're supposed to do," Bylsma said. "They should be comfortable with the opponent. They see the Hershey Bears (Washington's AHL affiliate) an awful lot and they play with the same system. There shouldn't be any surprises with what the other team is going to do as well. That should give them some comfort."

Jeffrey, the leading scorer with the Baby Pens with 43 points, played in 14 games last year with Pittsburgh, managing a goal and 3 assists. Johnson, in his second minor-league season, is looking to make his NHL debut.

"Dustin is a smart player, great positionally; that’s the strength of his game. Nick has some speed and more of a power forward, in-the-corners type of guy, with a good right-hand shot. The key for them is getting to their game right away, managing the puck the right way. That allows them and their line to have some success and not worry about who is on the ice, or how big the game is, or if it’s their first game.
"Hopefully the situation of knowing what we expect and who they're playing will give them that comfort to get right into their games."

Johnson was having a little trouble digesting the fact that there will be a good chance he will be on the Mellon Arena ice Thursday night, lining up across superstars like Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom and Alex Semin.

"Exciting – that is the only word I can use to describe it," Johnson told the Penguins' Website. "It's going to be fun."

Plus, he will be surrounded by some pretty good players on his side of the ledger, including linemates Malkin and Fedotenko.

"When you first think about that it is pretty nerve-wracking because those guys are pretty good," he said. "Hopefully by game time I just play my game. They are going to be open."

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Fleury still not ready
01.21.2010 | 12:53 PM ET


Marc-Andre Fleury took the ice Thursday morning, but left before the morning skate was finished. It is unlikely he will play tonight against the Capitals.

Fleury was sporting a brand new, very white glove to protect his broken ring finger. He faced a good number of shots before calling it day.

He was not available after practice and coach Dan Bylsma had not spoken to his goalie by the time he addressed the media.

"I don’t know exactly how it went to today other than the fact that I saw him catching pucks with his glove," Bylsma said. "The plan was for him to stay out prior to practice, which he did. He was taking a lot of shots, taking full shots and shots in the glove. I don’t know how that felt or what his readiness for a game might be. We’ll evaluate that and go forward."

The news was better for Sergei Gonchar, who has been hobbled since blocking a shot last week against the New Jersey Devils. Gonchar took part in practice and should be a go for the game. He played almost 27 minutes in Tuesday's win against the Islanders.

"Much like he was yesterday, he’ll be game-time but it looks like he’ll be ready to go as well," Bylsma said.

Max Talbot (lower-body injury) and Pascal Dupuis, who was knocked unconscious in Tuesday's game, are being listed as day-to-day and won't play against the Caps.

As cover, the team called up forwards Dustin Jeffrey and Nick Johnson from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Jeffrey leads the Baby Pens in scoring and is No. 5 on the AHL scoring charts with 43 points, while Johnson posted 22 points in 26 games.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Not just another game
01.21.2010 | 10:40 AM ET

Believe the hype, even if Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby aren't buying in hook, line and sinker like we hoped they would.

If the first meeting of the 2009-10 season between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins was just a normal, run-of-the-mill, mid-January regular season game, then you have to ask yourself these questions:

If this were just a normal game, why would NHL.com have not one, but two people in Pittsburgh covering the game? We normally don't have anyone here.

If this were just a normal game, why would national reporters from ESPN.com, The Hockey News and The Sporting News be in town to cover the game? They don't normally do that unless it's the playoffs.

If this were just a normal game, why would the Capitals send both of their P.R. guys to Pittsburgh? Normally only one of them travels for road games.

If this were just a normal game, why would those Capitals' P.R. guys go out of their way to make both Ovechkin and coach Bruce Boudreau available to reporters at the team hotel upon their arrival in town? The only time they normally do that is on off days during the playoffs when it's League mandated that the coach and a few players are available.

If this were just a normal game, why would the Washington Post have multiple reporters covering it? Normally only the beat writer goes on the road unless it's the playoffs.

If this were just a normal game, why would we have a blog about it? That we never do for just a normal regular season game.

No, folks, this isn't just one of 82. Oh, sure, on paper it is and by the weekend we will have moved on, but for today and into tomorrow, this game is actually an event and it deserves to be treated that way.

We'll have further updates throughout the morning. The Penguins are on the ice right now for their morning skate and the Capitals will follow.

-- Dan Rosen

Game on!
01.21.2010 | 10:27 AM ET

Can two of the NHL's best players enter tonight's big game any hotter? Sidney Crosby, fresh off a 2-goal, 4-assist performance against the Islanders, takes on Alex Ovechkin, who has been scorching lately to the tune of 15 points in his last 7 contests.

Any doubt that these guys will have another multipoint game? 

-- Darryl Haberman




Playing for my favorite team growing up, I've probably scored that goal a million times in my driveway. It feels good to actually do it in real life.

— Dale Weise, who grew up a Canadiens fan, on scoring the overtime winner in Montreal's 5-4 victory against Tampa Bay in Game 1