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Penguins aim to extend home streak vs. Capitals

by Mike Battaglino

CAPITALS (22-16-8) at PENGUINS (33-12-2)


Last 10: Washington 3-3-4; Pittsburgh 7-2-1

Season series: The Pittsburgh Penguins shut out the Washington Capitals 4-0 on Nov. 20 in their first game as Metropolitan Division rivals. Marc-Andre Fleury made 18 saves, and Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist for the Penguins, who took 40 shots.

Big story: The Capitals lost to the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in a shootout at home Tuesday, and will be playing their fifth game in seven days. This is the Penguins' only game in an eight-day stretch. Pittsburgh has won 12 in a row at home.

"I don't think there's any disadvantages," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik told the team website this week. "[Especially in] terms of rest and recovery. I think we have a veteran enough team that we'll have good practices and stay sharp. Any rest we can get I think will be good for us."

Team Scope:

Capitals: Washington is 4-2-2 in the second game of a back-to-back. Starting here, the Capitals play eight of their next nine on the road.

"Tonight we'll get some rest. ... It's an 8 o'clock game, so we'll be able to get a little more rest tomorrow," forward Brooks Laich told Monumental Network on Tuesday. "We know they're going to push hard, first 10 minutes, they're going to do that. You said they've been resting and trying to catch us maybe tired, but for our group, I actually think our energy level is pretty good right now. I'm not concerned about that tomorrow. So tomorrow it's about execution and focus and playing against a big rival of ours."

The Capitals are 2-2-4 in their past eight, scoring one goal in four of those games (three shootout losses).

"We know we aren't going to score on every shift out there, but we are doing the right things and hopefully it will bounce with us next game," forward Nicklas Backstrom said. "It will come if we just keep working. I think it will come."

Philipp Grubauer made 28 saves Tuesday. He, Braden Holtby or Michal Neuvirth could start against the Penguins.

Penguins: Pittsburgh plans to use its break in the schedule to better integrate new players with those who recently returned or are about to return from injury.

"We've got some more guys coming back," Orpik said. "We really haven't had a lot of practice time with [Evgeni Malkin], [Kris Letang], and some of the new guys that we're plugging in, so having some good practices with the group that we're playing with will be a good thing for us."

One of those new players is forward Taylor Pyatt, who was claimed off waivers from the New York Rangers on Jan. 2 and on Tuesday worked on a line with Malkin and Jussi Jokinen.

"This is a pretty important week for me to get more comfortable in practice," Pyatt said Tuesday. "It's one thing to understand the system. It's another to go out and execute it at game pace. It's good to practice with these guys and get familiar with everyone out there."

Forward Nick Drazenovic was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Tuesday.

The Penguins were off Sunday, practiced Monday and Tuesday, will practice Thursday, be off Friday, then practice Saturday and Sunday.

Who's hot: Grubauer has allowed one goal in each pf his past two games, stopping 58 of 60 shots (.967 save percentage). Ovechkin has six points in his past six games. … Fleury has won four in a row, five of six, 10 of 12, and 13 of 16. Forward Chris Kunitz has 10 points in his past seven games. Defenseman Matt Niskanen has six points in seven.

Injury report: Capitals defenseman Jack Hillen (leg) is on injured reserve. … Penguins forward Joe Vitale (upper body) was placed on injured reserve Tuesday and is expected to be out three weeks. Forward James Neal (upper body) missed his second straight practice. Forward Brian Gibbons (lower body) did not practice. Defenseman Paul Martin (broken tibia), forward Jayson Megna (lower body) and forward Andrew Ebbett (broken ankle) will be re-evaluated Wednesday. Forward Chuck Kobasew (lower body) is day-to-day. Forward Beau Bennett (hand/wrist surgery) is at least four weeks away.

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