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Streaking Penguins welcome Capitals

Pittsburgh looking to win sixth straight game

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

CAPITALS (51-14-5) at PENGUINS (39-24-8)

TV: 6 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TVAS

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury will be in net in an attempt to keep the Washington Capitals from clinching the Metropolitan Division title at Consol Energy Center on Sunday.

A day after making 16 saves in a 4-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center, Fleury will play against Washington looking for his fifth-straight win. Fleury enters the game with a career-high .922 save percentage and career-low 2.30 goals-against average in 53 starts this season.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan started Matthew Murray in a 4-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday in place of Fleury to set up the possibility for Fleury to make back-to-back starts during the weekend.

"The distance between the games definitely played into our decision making, but we feel like Marc is sharp," Sullivan said. "He got a break in the middle of the week. He had three days there where he had an opportunity to practice with [goaltending coach Mike Bales] and also get, I think, the necessary rest so he can be at the top of his game. That was some of our logic behind our decision making."

The Capitals will clinch the division if they defeat the Penguins in any fashion. Washington coach Barry Trotz said his players are aware of the milestone, but will see it as a further step toward a more important goal.

"They know, they know what's going on," Trotz said. "They're very aware of it, but it's not that big of a deal for us. We set out some goals. We want to check off the goals that we set and clinching, hopefully, the Metro at some point, that'll be another thing we check off and we'll move to the next thing. There's no celebration or anything about what we're trying to do. We set some goals. We want to reach them and if we can check off them all, then we'll celebrate."

Sullivan said defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who missed 14 games with an upper-body injury, will be a game-time decision. Pittsburgh's defense has gelled recently, allowing fewer than three goals in six of their past seven games, and Sullivan said he is wary of inserting Lovejoy into a unit that is playing possibly the best it has this season.

"That's certainly something that we discuss, for sure," Sullivan said. "The decisions we make, as I've said all along here, the decisions that the coaching staff makes on a nightly basis, we ask ourselves, each and every game, which group of players is going to give us the best chance to win.

"And that's the criteria. It may sound simple, but that's really the question we ask ourselves and we talk a lot about it, as far as which combinations we think give us the best chance to win. We believe that Ben Lovejoy is a good player, as is Derrick Pouliot. We have eight healthy defensemen right now that we think can help us win."

Here are the projected lineups:


Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Jay Beagle

Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie

Jason Chimera - Marcus Johansson - Justin Williams

Daniel Winnik - Mike Richards - Tom Wilson

Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik - Dmitry Orlov

Nate Schmidt - Taylor Chorney

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer

Injured: John Carlson (lower body)

Scratched: Stanislav Galiev, Michael Latta, Tom Wilson, Mike Weber


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist

Carl Hagelin - Nick Bonino - Phil Kessel

Tom Kuhnhackl - Matt Cullen - Bryan Rust

Conor Sheary - Oskar Sundqvist - Eric Fehr

Olli Maatta - Kris Letang

Brian Dumoulin - Trevor Daley

Ian Cole - Justin Schultz

Marc-Andre Fleury

Matthew Murray

Jeff Zatkoff

Injured: Evgeni Malkin (upper body), Beau Bennett (upper body), Ben Lovejoy (upper body), Kevin Porter (ankle surgery), Scott Wilson (lower body)

Scratched: Derrick Pouliot

Status report: Pittsburgh recalled forward Oskar Sundqvist from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and reassigned forward Dominik Simon on Friday

Who's hot: Crosby extended his scoring streak to 11 games with two assists against Philadelphia Saturday. He leads the NHL with 57 points (25 goals, 32 assists) in 43 games since Dec. 12 … Kuznetsov has recorded at least one assist in five straight games, including three against the Nashville Predators on Friday. He leads Washington with 73 points, 10 more than Ovechkin and Williams.

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