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Five things to watch for Wednesday Night Rivalry

by Brian Compton

The Detroit Red Wings have won three in a row and are two points shy of being atop the Eastern Conference. The Pittsburgh Penguins' past four games have featured shutouts, although they've won two of them.

Detroit (31-12-9) has won nine of its past 10 games, including a 3-1 victory against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday. The Red Wings have allowed two goals over their three-game win streak. Pittsburgh (30-15-8), which is coming off a 5-0 loss at the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, are three points behind the New York Islanders for the Metropolitan Division lead.

The Red Wings will try to extend their win streak when they visit the Penguins in the first game of a Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader at Consol Energy Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, SN1).

On the West Coast, the Washington Capitals will face the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN). Washington (28-16-10) had a three-game win streak end with a 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. The Capitals trail the Penguins by two points for second place in the Metropolitan. The Sharks (28-20-7) will try to avoid a three-game skid after a 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames on Monday. San Jose has allowed nine goals in its back-to-back defeats.

Here are five things to watch in the two Wednesday Night Rivalry games:

1. Mrazek gets another start

Detroit's No. 1 goalie, Jimmy Howard, has been out since Jan. 10 because of a groin injury, but the Red Wings haven't missed a beat thanks to the play of Petr Mrazek. A fifth-round pick in 2010, Mrazek, 22, is 13-4-1 with a 2.42 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

Howard will be in uniform Wednesday as Mrazek's backup. Howard is likely to start when the Red Wings play the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday. Detroit is 9-1-0 since Howard sustained the injury. Mrazek will make his 11th straight start.

"Pete, if I'm not mistaken, is winning," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said after practice Tuesday, according to the Red Wings website. "That's what we've always done here. We're trying to win all the games. That's what we’re doing. This way [Howard] is fully engaged in practice, getting bumped and getting knocked around. He'll have an opportunity to prepare and hopefully play on Saturday. Pete's playing Wednesday, that's it."

2. Fleury's shutout streak

Through all the injuries and slumps the Penguins have endured this season, the one constant has been the play of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. He hasn't allowed a goal in more than two games (131 minutes, 40 seconds) and is 10-1-2 with a 1.99 GAA and a .930 save percentage against the Atlantic Division.

Fleury got his eighth shutout in Pittsburgh's 4-0 win against the Calgary Flames on Friday, surpassing Tom Barrasso for the single-season Penguins record. It was the 36th shutout of Fleury's career; he also blanked the Edmonton Oilers in a 2-0 win last Wednesday.

"It's good," Fleury said. "[Barrasso] was a guy that I looked up to growing up, so it's fun to be able to get those. There are personal goals you want to achieve. I'm glad I got it, but at the same time I want to do well as a team. I want to win and that's what is most important."

3. Red Wings' PK finding its way

Detroit's penalty kill struggled in January, but the Red Wings went 8-for-8 over the past week, including 5-for-5 against the Coyotes. The Red Wings allowed 14 power-play goals in January.

"The penalty kill was good all year and really had a tailspin for a bit," Babcock told reporters after the win at Arizona. "We lost some of our details, we got back at 'er. I don't think at any time the penalty kill lost its confidence.

Petr Mrazek
Goalie - DET
RECORD: 13-4-1
GAA: 2.42 | SVP: .914
"The other thing is, you've got to give Mrazek credit here. The kid, for your third goalie, has gone 10-1. Maybe he doesn't want to be the third goalie."

4. Road trip begins for Capitals

Washington, still in the mix for the division title, opens a four-game road trip. The Capitals will need a better effort after the loss at home Sunday, when they mustered 14 shots on goal against Philadelphia despite being awarded six power plays.

Washington has five goals on the man-advantage in its past 30 opportunities.

"It's not good enough," captain Alex Ovechkin said. "Power play was terrible [Sunday]. All five guys didn't get any opportunities, myself, you know, missed the shots and the stick. It's tough."

5. Sharks focus on Ovechkin

If San Jose wants to salvage the final game of its three-game homestand, it will have to figure out a way to limit Ovechkin's chances. Washington's star forward has scored four goals in his past five games and is tied for the NHL lead with New York Rangers forward Rick Nash with 33.

"For us, to keep him off the board, stay out of the penalty box and then try to make him play defense," Sharks forward Logan Couture said, according to the San Jose Mercury News. "When skill players have to play defense, they don't like the game so much so we'll try to make him play in his own end."


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