PENGUINS (27-12-8) at CAPITALS (24-14-9)
TV: NBCSN, TVA SPORTS, SN1
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby will return to the lineup against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday.
Crosby, who missed the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game because of a lower-body injury, did not play in Pittsburgh's 5-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. He skated Wednesday morning at Verizon Center and coach Mike Johnston confirmed Crosby would play prior to the game.
Crosby's return further boosts a Pittsburgh lineup that recently has been overwhelmed by injuries.
Against the Jets, forward Patric Hornqvist and defenseman Kris Letang returned from lower-body and head injuries, respectively. The length of forward Evgeni Malkin's recovery from a lower-body injury is undetermined, Johnston said Monday, though he hopes Malkin can skate this weekend.
The Capitals returned from the All-Star break Tuesday by extending their losing streak to four (0-3-1) in a 4-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Capitals have allowed at least four goals in each, including 14 even-strength goals. Washington had allowed the same amount of even-strength goals in its previous 12 games, according to Capitals senior writer Mike Vogel.
"We all need to be better," Capitals forward Brooks Laich said. "We need to be better. I wake up this morning frustrated, didn't sleep well last night after the loss. But to wake up this morning, say we've got the Pittsburgh Penguins in our barn tonight, Rivalry Night, 8 o'clock game, team that we're trying to chase, team that we don't like, here we go. We've got a hockey game to play and a hockey game to win. There should be a lot of energy, a lot of intensity in the building tonight."
Washington has struggled in the second half of back-to-back games this season with a 1-6-1 record. Six of those seven losses, though, have been against teams that did not play the night before, according to JapersRink.com.
Here are the projected lineups:
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - David Perron
Beau Bennett - Brandon Sutter - Patric Hornqvist
Nick Spaling - Mark Arcobello - Steve Downie
Zach Sill - Andrew Ebbett - Craig Adams
Paul Martin - Kris Letang
Robert Bortuzzo - Christian Ehrhoff
Rob Scuderi - Simon Despres
Scratched: Maxim Lapierre, Scott Harrington
Injured: Evgeni Malkin (lower body), Blake Comeau (upper body), Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Olli Maatta (shoulder surgery)
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Andre Burakovsky
Marcus Johansson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Troy Brouwer
Brooks Laich - Eric Fehr - Joel Ward
Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson
Brooks Orpik - John Carlson
Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen
Jack Hillen - Mike Green
Scratched: Michael Latta, Aaron Volpatti, Cameron Schilling
Injured: Dmitry Orlov (wrist), John Erskine (neck surgery)
Status report: The Penguins acquired Lapierre from the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday in exchange for forward Marcel Goc. Lapierre's availability is uncertain. … The Capitals held an optional skate Wednesday and 14 players participated. Coach Barry Trotz will address the media prior to the game.
Who's hot: Letang's five assists against the Jets were a career high and the most in one game by an NHL defenseman since Dion Phaneuf had five for the Calgary Flames against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Dec. 13, 2007, according to Elias Sports Bureau. … Fleury has won six of his past seven starts against Washington. … Backstrom had his 400th career assist against Columbus. Since Backstrom entered the NHL in 2007-08, only Vancouver Canucks forward Henrik Sedin (448), San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton (430) and Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf (402) have more.