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Caps, Pens set to clash on NBC

by Brian Compton
CAPITALS (25-19-2) at PENGUINS (26-17-4)


Last 10: Washington 6-4-0; Pittsburgh 5-5-0.

Season Series: This is the fourth and final meeting between the teams. Washington can take the season series with a victory Sunday after earning a 1-0 win on Jan. 11 at Verizon Center.

Big Story: Pens captain Sidney Crosby was in California on Friday to visit with Dr. Robert S. Bray -- a neurological spine specialist -- as part of his continuing treatment program. Crosby will undergo a series of tests with Dr. Bray.
Crosby has not played since Dec. 5 because of concussion-like symptoms. He has 2 goals and 10 assists in just eight appearances this season.
"Sidney is meeting with some of the top specialists in the country as he continues his recovery," general manager Ray Shero said.
Team Scope:

Capitals: Washington was shut out for the second time in three games Friday night, when the Caps suffered a 3-0 loss at Carolina. Washington was also blanked Tuesday night in a 3-0 loss at home against the New York Islanders, but responded with a 3-0 win of its own at Montreal only 24 hours later. The Caps mustered just 23 shots on goal against Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward, who blanked Washington for the first time since Nov. 5, 2007.

The Capitals have recorded 30 or fewer shots on goal in 17 straight games, and fewer than 25 in eight consecutive contests.

"We obviously didn't play consistently enough offensively," Caps defenseman Dennis Wideman told the team's web site. "We've got to find a way to get more pucks to the net and get more scoring chances and stop giving up so many. We're spending a lot of time in our own zone and a lot of time from the red line back towards our end. It's too much, I think.

"We have to do a better job of getting the puck to our forwards in a position where they can get it in [to the offensive zone] and when they do get it, they have to do a better job of getting it in. It starts right from the breakout pass. We have to have a little more patience than to just slap it around the wall or throw it away. We have to support each other and when the guy is open, get him the puck and make the plays. We can't play like this too much longer." 

Penguins: Despite all the injuries, Pittsburgh will be seeking its sixth straight win Sunday afternoon. After disposing of the New York Rangers in a 4-1 victory at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, the Pens returned home and earned a 5-4 shootout win against the Canadiens at the Consol Energy Center on Friday.

Pittsburgh had lost six consecutive games before emphatically turning things around.

"This same game might have gotten away from us a week and a half, two weeks ago," coach Dan Bylsma said of Friday's win.

Who's Hot: Alex Ovechkin has 3 points (2 goals, 1 assist) in his last five games, while Marcus Johansson has a goal and 2 assists over the same stretch. … Evgeni Malkin enters riding a five-game point streak. He has 8 goals and 2 assists during this impressive run.

Injury Report: Washington will be without Nicklas Backstrom (concussion), Mike Green (sports hernia) and Tom Poti (groin). … Besides Crosby, the Pens are also without Jordan Staal (MCL), Arron Asham (concussion), Robert Bortuzzo (concussion) and Simon Despres (MCL).

Stat Pack: Last week marked the first time in more than a decade that three straight Capitals games ended in a shutout. From Jan. 12-16, 2002, Washington played three straight shutout games. The Caps won 1-0 shutout decisions on Jan. 12 and 14 against Florida and Boston, respectively. Washington then lost to Montreal, 2-0, on Jan. 16.

Puck Drop: "We'll be there. We're going to get better and be there at the end. I think the guys in the room know that. We're a team that's going to get stronger as we go and some other teams might come down a little bit." -- Caps forward Mike Knuble
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