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Penguins' Sutter gets choice spot on Crosby line

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- Before the Washington Capitals face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2, RDS), Alex Ovechkin shared a unique take on his rivalry with Penguins forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 33 goals, named Crosby and Malkin as two of the League's best players while ranking himself among the top 15.

"It's a great battle," Ovechkin said. "It's a good challenge for me. They are, right now, playing very good and it's going to be a good battle for us."

Ovechkin has 22 goals and 40 points in 32 games against Pittsburgh. Crosby has 15 goals and 45 points in 26 games, and Malkin has nine goals and 36 points in 23 games against Washington.

Crosby, who leads the League with 67 points and is tied for second with 25 goals, and linemate Chris Kunitz will be joined by Brandon Sutter on Wednesday. Sutter will be the fifth Penguins forward to play right wing on the top line in the past nine games.

"I think it's obviously a new look," Crosby said. "Given the situation, the circumstances here, we have a lot of guys playing different roles. We have to find a way. [Sutter] is a smart player and I'm sure he'll find a way to adjust."

Sutter normally centers the Penguins' third line, a position that will be filled by forward Nick Drazenovic. Sutter said he hasn't played on the wing in seven or eight years but said he doesn't think many players would complain about having a chance to play with Crosby.

"It's still the same game we've been playing structurally," Sutter said. "It's just a different way to look at the game. Hopefully in the first couple shifts I can get a feel for it."

After missing Pittsburgh's prior two practices, forward James Neal returned to his usual spot at left wing alongside Malkin and Jussi Jokinen at the Penguins' morning skate. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma did not provide an official announcement regarding Neal's status.

Washington will go with Michal Neuvirth in goal against the Penguins. It will be his second game since Nov. 22. He last played Jan. 10 when he made 32 saves in a 3-2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Here are the projected lineups:


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Brandon Sutter

James Neal - Evgeni Malkin - Jussi Jokinen

Tanner Glass - Nick Drazenovic - Craig Adams

Taylor Pyatt - Zach Sill - Deryk Engelland

Rob Scuderi - Kris Letang

Robert Bortuzzo - Brooks Orpik

Olli Maatta - Matt Niskanen

Marc-Andre Fleury

Jeff Zatkoff

Scratched: Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, Simon Despres

Injured: Beau Bennett (wrist/hand), Chris Conner (hand), Pascal Dupuis (ACL), Andrew Ebbett (ankle), Chuck Kobasew (lower body), Paul Martin (broken tibia), Jayson Megna (lower body), Joe Vitale (upper body), Tomas Vokoun (blood clots)


Eric Fehr - Mikhail Grabovski - Alex Ovechkin

Brooks Laich - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Marcus Johansson - Joel Ward

Aaron Volpatti - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

Karl Alzner - John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov - Mike Green

John Erskine - Connor Carrick

Michal Neuvirth

Braden Holtby

Scratched: Martin Erat, Steve Oleksy, Philipp Grubauer

Injured: Jack Hillen (knee)

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