PENGUINS (47-25-8) at CAPITALS (55-17-7)
TV: SN360, ROOT, CSN-DC, NHL.TV
WASHINGTON -- Winners of seven consecutive games and 13 of 14, the Pittsburgh Penguins could clinch the No. 2 seed in the Metropolitan Division and home-ice advantage for the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a win against the Washington Capitals on Thursday.
The Penguins need to win at least one of their two remaining games to secure home ice and they face playoff teams in each of those games. They'll play their final regular season game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
Pittsburgh can also clinch the two seed if they earn a point against Washington and if the New York Rangers lose to the New York Islanders in any fashion or defeat the Islanders in a shootout.
"We're going to keep playing the right way," captain Sidney Crosby said. "This is a really good team here and a team we played well against them last game. I'm sure they'll be motivated here at home and we've got to make sure we're winning against tough teams like this."
Capitals goalie Braden Holtby will have another chance to tie Martin Brodeur's single-season record of 48 wins. He fell short on Tuesday, a 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Islanders.
"You have to try to play your top game every game," Holtby said. "It's a good challenge going into playoffs to have that necessity of our top game in order to be successful."
Center Nicklas Backstrom will return to Washington's lineup after missing three games with an upper-body injury. He took line rushes with Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie.
Backstrom has 67 points this season.
"That's what's really been the difference in our team this year, is our one-two center combination, our top two lines," Holtby said. "I think that's pushed us to the next level. Nick's had a lot of pressure on himself the last few years and once [Evgeny Kuznetsov's] taken that off, he's flourished even more, being able to play his complete game and not be relied on for strictly points."
Goalie Matt Murray is expected to start for the Penguins.
Here are the projected lineups:
Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Carl Hagelin - Nick Bonino - Phil Kessel
Tom Kuhnhackl - Matt Cullen - Beau Bennett
Conor Sheary - Oskar Sundqvist - Eric Fehr
Trevor Daley - Kris Letang
Ian Cole - Justin Schultz
Derrick Pouliot - Ben Lovejoy
Injured: Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion), Olli Maatta (lower body), Evgeni Malkin (upper body), Kevin Porter (ankle), Bryan Rust (lower body), Scott Wilson (lower body)
Scratched: Brian Dumoulin
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Justin Williams
Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Jason Chimera - Marcus Johansson - Tom Wilson
Daniel Winnik - Mike Richards - Jay Beagle
Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Nate Schmidt
Scratched: Taylor Chorney, Mike Weber, Stanislav Galiev, Michael Latta
Status report: Rust, Maatta and Malkin will not play in the Penguins' last two games of the season. Fleury has made significant progress in his recovery from a concussion but is still day-to-day, according to coach Mike Sullivan. Sheary will be a game-time decision.
Who's hot: Letang has 11 points in his past seven games. Crosby has eight points in seven games. Bonino has 12 points in seven games … Ovechkin has four goals in his past four games.