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Penguins and Capitals renew rivalry

by Corey Masisak

PENGUINS (5-3-0) at CAPITALS (2-5-1)


Season series: This is the first meeting of the season. The teams split the four-game season series last year, though Washington has won nine of 12 against Pittsburgh since the Penguins won a second-round series in 2009 en route to claiming the Stanley Cup.

Big story: These two rivals meet on Super Bowl Sunday for the third straight year, and both are coming off victories after slower than expected starts to the season.

Team Scope:

Penguins: Pittsburgh dropped an ugly 4-1 decision to the New York Islanders at home on Tuesday, but the Penguins have rebounded with back-to-back impressive performances against the other New York-area teams. The Penguins defeated the New York Rangers 3-0 at Madison Square Garden on Thursday and blasted the New Jersey Devils 5-1 at Consol Energy Center on Saturday.

Tomas Vokoun, who will start in net against his former team, made 28 saves to shut out the Rangers. Pittsburgh's big stars have produced, and the team's attention to detail at the defensive end has improved in the past two games. Sidney Crosby had three points against the Devils after Evgeni Malkin had a two-point effort against the Rangers.

Capitals: Losing six of the first seven games of his tenure was not what new coach Adam Oates had in mind, but Washington did respond Friday night with a 3-2 victory against Philadelphia. Captain Alex Ovechkin had his best game of the season, finishing with seven shots on net. Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and an assist in the victory.

Goaltender Braden Holtby, who started the first two games of the season before watching Michal Neuvirth play four straight, made 29 saves against the Flyers and will get the start again against the Penguins. Either Tom Poti or Roman Hamrlik will likely draw into the lineup after being a healthy scratch in recent games because defenseman John Erskine has been suspended.

Who's hot: Crosby has five points in the past three games for the Penguins. … Backstrom has points in three straight games for the Capitals.

Injury report: Defenseman Matt Niskanen (foot) is out for the Penguins. … Forward Brooks Laich (groin) and defenseman Jack Hillen (upper body) are out for the Capitals. Defenseman Erskine is serving the first of a three-game suspension because of a hit to the head of Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds on Friday night.

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