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#CapsPens Skate Shavings: Season Series Finale

News and notes from an optional Monday morning skate in Pittsburgh, ahead of the Caps-Pens regular season series finale.

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / Monumental Sports Network

The Capitals are in Pittsburgh on Monday, facing the Pens in the last of the four meetings between the two teams this season. The Penguins prevailed here in Pittsburgh in the Oct. 13 season opener for both teams, taking a 3-2 shootout decision.

Washington responded in winning the next two games in the District, by 7-1 on Nov. 17 and by 5-2 just last Wednesday (Jan. 11). Now the Caps clash with the Pens for the second time in four games, making Pittsburgh the bread in a short, four-game stretch of schedule in which Chicago and Philadelphia served as the filling. 

The Caps carry a nine-game winning streak with them to the Steel City, their longest since a nine-game roll in Dec. 2015. Since establishing the franchise mark with 14 consecutive wins in 2009-10, the Caps have had three winning streaks of exactly nine games.

Sunday's 5-0 win over Philadelphia lifts the Caps into the top spot in the Metropolitan Division standings, one point ahead of Columbus. (The Blue Jackets still own the league's best record from a points percentage perspective.) With their win on Sunday over the Flyers, the Caps nudged their average goals per game figure past three, to 3.02 per tilt. They rank seventh in the league in that department.
Video: Coach Trotz talks before Monday's #CapsPens matchup
The Defense Never Rests - For the first time in franchise history, the Capitals have recorded four shutouts in a span of six games. Washington has not permitted an even-strength goal in more than 18 periods of play, since midway through the third period of its Jan. 3 game against Toronto. 

Washington has permitted an average of just 1.91 goals per game in 2016-17. The distance between the Caps and the second ranking Minnesota Wild (2.14) is nearly a quarter of a goal per game, the greatest distance between any two teams on that ledger. 

Blueline Absences - Both the Caps and the Pens will be without key defensemen in Monday night's game. Caps blueliner John Carlson left Sunday's game with the Flyers in the first period and did not return. He is listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury. Pittsburgh will be without top defenseman Kris Letang. 

Carlson's absence on Monday gives ex-Pens defenseman Taylor Chorney a chance to suit up against his former employer. With a two-day break for the first time in nearly three weeks after tonight's game, Caps coach Barry Trotz believes keeping Carlson out of Monday's game makes good sense. 

"We've got a few days here before our next game," says Trotz. "He's close, but I just think long term we keep him out tonight and I expect him to be ready to go [Thursday in St. Louis]." 

Letang was injured in the first period of Saturday's loss to the Red Wings in Detroit, and he was placed on injured reserve Monday morning.

"He's week-to-week with a lower body injury," says Pens coach Mike Sullivan of Letang, whose average nightly workload of 25:11 ranks ninth in the NHL. 

Pittsburgh recalled defenseman Chad Ruhwedel and forward Jake Guentzel from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL on Monday. Both players are expected to suit up on Monday against Washington.

Road Killers vs Home Wreckers - Over the last half of January, the Caps play six of their next seven games on the road, beginning on Monday against the Penguins. Washington has won three straight on the road, is 6-1-2 in its last nine road games, and is 11-4-4 overall on the road this season. 

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has won five straight games on home ice. The Pens are in the midst of a 12-game points streak (11-0-1) on home ice, and their 18-2-2 start to the season at PPG Paints Arena is the best in the franchise's history.

The Caps will stop back home in the District to pick up their dads/mentors for the team's annual Mentors' Trip, which includes visits to St. Louis and Dallas later this week.

In The Nets - Braden Holtby gets the net back for the Caps on Monday in Pittsburgh after Philipp Grubauer started the back-to-back set off on the good foot with a 24-save shutout against Philadelphia on Sunday.

With his win last week over the Pens, Holtby raised his lifetime mark against Pittsburgh to 7-7-2 with two shutouts, a 2.55 GAA and a .919 save pct. 

In his last 17 starts, Holtby is 11-2-3 with five shutouts, a 1.45 GAA and a .948 save pct. He has not permitted an even-strength goal in his last 15 periods of work.

Matt Murray gets the start for the Pens on Monday. Because of an injury and the timing of the Penguins' bye week, Murray has played in only two of Pittsburgh's last eight games. He has gone the distance in just one of those two appearances, a 29-save performance last Thursday in Ottawa when the Pens lost 4-1 in the back end of back-to-back games.

On the season, Murray is 13-4-1 with a 2.28 GAA and a .925 save pct. He is 6-2-1 with a 2.52 GAA and a .921 save pct. since the start of December. Lifetime in the regular season against the Capitals, Murray is 1-2-0 with a 3.37 GAA and a .901 save pct. 

All Lined Up - Here is how we expect the Capitals and Penguins to look when they take the ice on Monday in Pittsburgh:

 

WASHINGTON

Forwards

8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie

90-Johansson, 92-Kuznetsov, 14-Williams

10-Connolly, 20-Eller, 65-Burakovsky

26-Winnik, 83-Beagle, 43-Wilson 

Defensemen

27-Alzner, 2-Niskanen

44-Orpik, 9-Orlov

4-Chorney, 88-Schmidt 

Goaltenders

70-Holtby

31-Grubauer

Injuries

74-Carlson (lower body, day-to-day)

Scratches

18-Stephenson

 

PITTSBURGH

Forwards

43-Sheary, 87-Crosby, 17-Rust

59-Guentzel, 71-Malkin, 72-Hornqvist

14-Kunitz, 13-Bonino, 81-Kessel

14-Kunitz, 7-Cullen, 23-Wilson

Defensemen

28-Cole, 4-Schultz

3-Maatta, 6-Daley

5-Warsofsky, 2-Ruhwedel 

Goaltenders

30-Murray

29-Fleury 

Injuries

8-Dumolin (broken jaw)

58-Letang (leg)

Scratches

16-Fehr

61-Oleks
Washington responded in winning the next two games in the District, by 7-1 on Nov. 17 and by 5-2 just last Wednesday (Jan. 11). Now the Caps clash with the Pens for the second time in four games, making Pittsburgh the bread in a short, four-game stretch of schedule in which Chicago and Philadelphia served as the filling. 

The Caps carry a nine-game winning streak with them to the Steel City, their longest since a nine-game roll in Dec. 2015. Since establishing the franchise mark with 14 consecutive wins in 2009-10, the Caps have had three winning streaks of exactly nine games.

Sunday's 5-0 win over Philadelphia lifts the Caps into the top spot in the Metropolitan Division standings, one point ahead of Columbus. (The Blue Jackets still own the league's best record from a points percentage perspective.) With their win on Sunday over the Flyers, the Caps nudged their average goals per game figure past three, to 3.02 per tilt. They rank seventh in the league in that department.

The Defense Never Rests - For the first time in franchise history, the Capitals have recorded four shutouts in a span of six games. Washington has not permitted an even-strength goal in more than 18 periods of play, since midway through the third period of its Jan. 3 game against Toronto. 

Washington has permitted an average of just 1.91 goals per game in 2016-17. The distance between the Caps and the second ranking Minnesota Wild (2.14) is nearly a quarter of a goal per game, the greatest distance between any two teams on that ledger. 

Blueline Absences - Both the Caps and the Pens will be without key defensemen in Monday night's game. Caps blueliner John Carlson left Sunday's game with the Flyers in the first period and did not return. He is listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury. Pittsburgh will be without top defenseman Kris Letang. 

Carlson's absence on Monday gives ex-Pens defenseman Taylor Chorney a chance to suit up against his former employer. With a two-day break for the first time in nearly three weeks after tonight's game, Caps coach Barry Trotz believes keeping Carlson out of Monday's game makes good sense. 

"We've got a few days here before our next game," says Trotz. "He's close, but I just think long term we keep him out tonight and I expect him to be ready to go [Thursday in St. Louis]." 

Letang was injured in the first period of Saturday's loss to the Red Wings in Detroit, and he was placed on injured reserve Monday morning.

"He's week-to-week with a lower body injury," says Pens coach Mike Sullivan of Letang, whose average nightly workload of 25:11 ranks ninth in the NHL. 

Pittsburgh recalled defenseman Chad Ruhwedel and forward Jake Guentzel from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL on Monday. Both players are expected to suit up on Monday against Washington.

Road Killers vs Home Wreckers - Over the last half of January, the Caps play six of their next seven games on the road, beginning on Monday against the Penguins. Washington has won three straight on the road, is 6-1-2 in its last nine road games, and is 11-4-4 overall on the road this season. 

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has won five straight games on home ice. The Pens are in the midst of a 12-game points streak (11-0-1) on home ice, and their 18-2-2 start to the season at PPG Paints Arena is the best in the franchise's history.

The Caps will stop back home in the District to pick up their dads/mentors for the team's annual Mentors' Trip, which includes visits to St. Louis and Dallas later this week.

In The Nets - Braden Holtby gets the net back for the Caps on Monday in Pittsburgh after Philipp Grubauer started the back-to-back set off on the good foot with a 24-save shutout against Philadelphia on Sunday.

With his win last week over the Pens, Holtby raised his lifetime mark against Pittsburgh to 7-7-2 with two shutouts, a 2.55 GAA and a .919 save pct. 

In his last 17 starts, Holtby is 11-2-3 with five shutouts, a 1.45 GAA and a .948 save pct. He has not permitted an even-strength goal in his last 15 periods of work.

Matt Murray gets the start for the Pens on Monday. Because of an injury and the timing of the Penguins' bye week, Murray has played in only two of Pittsburgh's last eight games. He has gone the distance in just one of those two appearances, a 29-save performance last Thursday in Ottawa when the Pens lost 4-1 in the back end of back-to-back games.

On the season, Murray is 13-4-1 with a 2.28 GAA and a .925 save pct. He is 6-2-1 with a 2.52 GAA and a .921 save pct. since the start of December. Lifetime in the regular season against the Capitals, Murray is 1-2-0 with a 3.37 GAA and a .901 save pct. 

All Lined Up - Here is how we expect the Capitals and Penguins to look when they take the ice on Monday in Pittsburgh:

WASHINGTON

Forwards

8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie

90-Johansson, 92-Kuznetsov, 14-Williams

10-Connolly, 20-Eller, 65-Burakovsky

26-Winnik, 83-Beagle, 43-Wilson 

Defensemen

27-Alzner, 2-Niskanen

44-Orpik, 9-Orlov

4-Chorney, 88-Schmidt 

Goaltenders

70-Holtby

31-Grubauer

Injuries

74-Carlson (lower body, day-to-day)

Scratches

18-Stephenson


PITTSBURGH

Forwards

43-Sheary, 87-Crosby, 17-Rust

59-Guentzel, 71-Malkin, 72-Hornqvist

14-Kunitz, 13-Bonino, 81-Kessel

14-Kunitz, 7-Cullen, 23-Wilson

Defensemen

28-Cole, 4-Schultz

3-Maatta, 6-Daley

5-Warsofsky, 2-Ruhwedel 

Goaltenders

30-Murray

29-Fleury 

Injuries

8-Dumolin (broken jaw)

58-Letang (leg)

Scratches

16-Fehr

61-Oleksy

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