Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin were supposed to take the NHL by storm with their offensive skills when they entered the league. They've certainly done their part, but their respective teams are struggling to find consistency.
The two former top overall draft picks go head-to-head for the 10th time on Thursday night when Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins host Ovechkin's Washington Capitals.
Both players have had remarkable careers through their first two-and-a-half seasons in the NHL. Ovechkin was the top pick in the 2004 draft and Crosby No. 1 in 2005, as the NHL resumed play following its lockout, and they made an immediate impact - both scored 100 points in their rookie season, and Crosby won the scoring title in his second year.
When they've played each other, though, Crosby and his team have dominated. The Penguins are 8-1-0 against the Capitals since the two young stars entered the league, and Crosby has been a big reason why.
He has five goals and 10 assists in the nine meetings - the last five of which have been wins for Pittsburgh. Ovechkin has three goals and six assists in the nine games, but hasn't scored during the Capitals' five-game losing streak.
Crosby has scored or assisted on 48 of the Penguins' 98 goals and second-year star Evgeni Malkin has 40 points. Beyond them, though, Pittsburgh (18-16-2) has had trouble finding consistent scoring from its second and third lines.
In their last game, however, the Penguins got some scoring from a pair of unlikely sources. Georges Laraque scored his second goal of the year, while Gary Roberts had his second and third in Sunday's 4-2 victory over Boston.
"We've all got to chip in and we're going to need that for the remainder of the season to win hockey games," said Roberts, whose club has alternated wins and losses in its last six games.
The Capitals (14-19-4) had only one win in five games prior to a 3-2 victory over Tampa Bay on Wednesday. It was Washington's first game with Bruce Boudreau as its full-time coach - Boudreau had coached his first 13 games with an interim label since taking over for the fired Glen Hanlon on Nov. 22.
Washington went 6-14-1 under Hanlon - its worst start in 26 years - but has shown improvement under Boudreau, going 8-5-3 although the Capitals' 32 points remain the fewest in the Eastern Conference.
"We've had confidence in him from the moment he came in," Washington defenseman Brian Pothier said. "We're looking forward to the rest of the season and getting better every night."
The Capitals also got goals from unlikely sources in their win over the Lightning. Pothier scored his fourth goal, Dave Steckel had his third along with two assists, and Matt Bradley's added his second of the season.
Ovechkin assisted on Pothier's second-period goal but did not score a goal himself. He is trying to avoid going consecutive games without a goal for the first time since Nov. 5-6.