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Caps return home to face Penguins

by Brian Compton
PENGUINS (21-16-4) at CAPITALS (21-17-2)


Last 10: Pittsburgh 4-6-0; Washington 5-4-1.

Season Series: This is the third of four meetings between the teams. They've split the first two games, as Pittsburgh avenged a 3-2 overtime loss on Oct. 13 when they beat the Caps by a 2-1 score on Dec. 1 at the Verizon Center.

Big Story: Washington returns home after a quick trip to California, where it was outscored 10-4 in losses to San Jose and Los Angeles. Wednesday marks the beginning of a four-game homestand for the Capitals, who will be facing an injury-depleted Pittsburgh squad that has now dropped five in a row following Tuesday's 5-1 loss to Ottawa at the Consol Energy Center.

Team Scope:

Penguins: Injuries are officially taking their toll on the Pens. Perhaps it's gotten to the point where it's simply too much to ask to win without the likes of Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Jordan Staal?

That certainly seemed to be the case Tuesday night against the red-hot Senators, who dominated Pittsburgh from start to finish as the Pens trailed 4-0 before the 6-minute mark of the second period.

"This might be a good time to get out on the road and be together and have kind of a little us-against-the-world attitude," Pens defenseman Matt Niskanen said after Tuesday's loss. "It's time for a real desperate effort, I think."

Capitals: Washington probably couldn't wait to return home after what transpired on the West Coast. The Caps immediately boarded a plane following Monday night's 5-2 loss at Los Angeles and will have little time to adjust back to the Eastern time zone before facing the Penguins on Wednesday. To help the recuperation process, Washington coach Dale Hunter gave his group the day off Tuesday.

"I think we always try to work our hardest, and sometimes it doesn't work," forward Marcus Johansson told The Washington Times. "It's very tough because we're trying our best and it's not working. I don't know what it is."

Who's Hot: Evgeni Malkin has goals in back-to-back games for the Pens. … Johansson had both of Washington's goals Monday night. He has 5 points in his last three games. Alex Ovechkin has been held without a point in his last two games, but he still is 5-1-6 in his last five.

Injury Report: There is no return date for either Crosby, Letang or Robert Bortuzzo, who are all out with concussions. Staal is out 4-6 weeks with a knee injury, while Arron Asham (knee) is also out. … Mike Green (groin) and Nicklas Backstrom (upper body) are day-to-day for the Caps, while Tom Poti (groin) is expected to miss the entire season. 

Stat Pack: The Penguins are 16-14-3 without Crosby this season. … Washington is 0-12-1 in the 13 games that Ovechkin hasn't registered a point.

Puck Drop: "We know individually and as a whole that we have more. We need to prove it to ourselves." -- Penguins forward Matt Cooke after Tuesday's 5-1 loss to Ottawa

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