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Crosby returns as Penguins visit Capitals

by Adam Vingan / NHL.com

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:

PENGUINS

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

Marc-Andre Fleury

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Maxim Lapierre, Scott Harrington

Injured: Evgeni Malkin (lower body), Blake Comeau (upper body), Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Olli Maatta (shoulder surgery)

CAPITALS

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

Braden Holtby

Justin Peters

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.

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