The Capitals-Penguins rivalry has earned plenty of media coverage, and that will be no exception tonight in a full Heinz Field press box. But here at NHL.com we are always looking to super-serve the League's fans. So here, even before puck drop, our writers tell you who will win the game and who will star.
-- Backed by the home crowd enjoying the night air the Pittsburgh Penguins
will improve to 2-0 in Winter Classics with a victory over the Washington Capitals
. The game will be tight, just as it was in D.C. last week, but the Penguins will prove that right now they are just a hair better than the Caps.
-- Kris Letang
has been the Penguins' MVP on the blue line all season and he'll be at it again Saturday night. Letang will chip in offensively but also play stout defense to hold the Caps at bay.
-- Pascal Dupuis
scored the shootout winner for the Penguins in D.C. on Dec. 23, and don't be shocked if he plays another key role in Saturday's game. Dupuis plays on a line with Sidney Crosby
, so you know he's always a threat to have a strong offensive game.
-- Jordan Staal
will make his return in style. Staal, who should play close to 15 or 16 minutes and likely with Evgeni Malkin
on his wing, is going to score his first goal in his first game of the season, ringing in a year that could be very good to him.
-- Having been here since the first NHL employee stepped on a blade of grass 10 nights ago, watching Heinz Field transform from a football field to a hockey rink has been nothing short of fascinating. Learning how Dan Craig puts together this rink, makes ice and then maintains it has been enlightening. He's truly an ice master, but he's also backed by a great crew of guys who all love what they do, work hard and have a lot of fun. It's been a blast.
Shawn P. Roarke
-- The Caps have had the Penguins number for a while now in regular-season play -- going 8-1-3 against Pittsburgh during Bruce Boudreau
's tenure -- and that will continue Saturday night as Alex Ovechkin
takes the game's biggest stage and makes it his own with a dominating performance. Caps 3, Pens 2.
-- Got to go with the Great 8 here if he is going to put up a pair of goals as predicted before. Ovechkin has a knack of putting his stamp on so many of the League's signature moments.
-- Mike Rupp
. As colleague Dave Lozo detailed in a story earlier today
, Rupp has displayed a knack for scoring in big games. This is a big game, so perhaps Rupp will strike again. But, he has the all-round game to entertain fans of old-school hockey.
-- A completely amped-up Heinz Field crowd belting out Renegade -- a Heinz Field tradition when the Steelers play here and in need of a bit of a boost -- to get the Penguins flying.
-- After spending more than four hours in the parking lot tailgating with Winter Classic celebrity chef Duff Goldman, I have intimate knowledge as to how keyed up this crowd is going to be. Throw in an invading army of Caps fans -- rumored to be 30,000 strong -- and it's bound to create an atmosphere that won't soon be forgotten.
-- The Washington Capitals
have owned the Penguins recently, going 7-0-2 in their last nine meetings. The Pens broke through with a shootout victory on Dec. 23 at Verizon Center, so the Caps will be motivated to exact revenge at Heinz Field. Caps 4, Pens 1.
-- Semyon Varlamov
is coming off a 25-save shutout against the Montreal Canadiens
and is rounding into form. He wants to take control of the starting job, and proving he can handle the spotlight of the Winter Classic will go a long to proving that.
-- After going through a 12-game stretch with just 2 assists, Eric Fehr
has a goal and a pair of assists in his last three games. He could be hitting his stride heading into the Winter Classic, so look for him to have a good game.
-- The Penguins will be awarded a penalty shot, and Sidney Crosby
will be the one to take it. But Varlamov will come up with a dramatic save and keep Crosby off the scoresheet.
-- Dan Bylsma
is wearing a fedora that he should adopt permanently. If he dresses like it's the 1930s, he should also address his players with 1930s lingo. "If you guys want to earn some clams, start playing like the bee's knees!"
-- Gut feeling: Caps pull it out 4-2, wrapping it up with a late empty-net goal. Washington goes up early on an Ovechkin goal, Crosby responds, then the teams tighten up on defense. Ovi scores a second goal early in the third, someone on the Caps' fourth line makes it 3-1, putting Washington in control of this Classic.
-- Ovi. He leads Sid head-to-head in goals, 17-13, but trails in overall points 31 to 35. He extends that goal lead under the bright NBC/CBC/RDS lights, making him the centerpiece of HBO's final episode of "24/7," debuting at 10 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
-- Like to say Semyon Varlamov
, who is getting a surprise start in goal, sort of, but that would be too easy. Well, actually it might easy, but it is true. No one expects him to be the difference here in prime time tonight at the Heinz Field ice. He will be tough early and, most importantly, hold off a furious third period of shots from Pittsburgh.
-- The sound here at Heinz when Crosby scores the Pens' first goal.
-- Fans in Pittsburgh have been pumped for this Classic. From overheard airport and downtown conversations about Sid's streak to people skating at the nearby Winter Classic community rink late on New Year's to watching so many Pens and Caps jerseys (with men, women and children in them) walk into the Steelers' house, there has been a blizzard of smiles.