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Plenty on the line for Penguins tonight

by Shawn P. Roarke / NHL.com
PITTSBURGH -- It's an understatement to say the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins are approaching Tuesday's showdown at Mellon Arena with different mindsets.    

The Penguins are looking for answers. They have lost all three previous games against the Capitals this season, although two of the losses came after regulation. Plus, they have lost all six games against Atlantic Division rival New Jersey, the team they are battling for division supremacy and a top-three seed in the upcoming Eastern Conference playoffs.

So, the Penguins are not relishing the thought of losing another game to a top team from the Eastern Conference, particularly the team that has the No. 1 seed as long as it is in the playoffs. But Sidney Crosby says a fear of going 0-fer against the Caps cannot overwhelm his team Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN2).

"Our focus has to be on playing the right way, and if we do that, we are confident we are going to win," Crosby said. "First and foremost, you have to focus on your task a lot of times and hope the result comes with that."

The Pens, however, don't have the luxury of not worrying about points. They are in a dead heat with the Devils, who play in Atlanta Tuesday. As a result, standings points remain at a premium for the Penguins.

The Caps have no concern about points. They already have won the Eastern Conference title and the Presidents' Trophy. As a result, Tuesday's game is nothing more than bragging rights for the Capitals, who lost to Pittsburgh in last year's playoffs. As a result, the Capitals are resting some players Tuesday. Defenseman Mike Green will miss his second-straight game and backup goalie Semyon Varlamov will get the start. Two players -- defenseman Karl Alzner and forward Jay Beagle -- were called up from AHL Hershey as potential reinforcements.

"We might rest some guys and we have some guys that are banged up today," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Quite frankly, the game doesn't really mean a lot to us. So if we have guys that are tired and banged up, let's rest them."

While the game might mean little in the standings for the Capitals, they still are looking forward to playing their fiercest rival.

"For the fans, it's always nice to watch this game," Alex Ovechkin said. "We always play hard against each other and it should be a good game."

Crosby all but guaranteed a good game.

"Both teams usually bring their best in these games and they are usually intense no matter the time of the year," he said. "This one, being so late in season, I'm sure both teams are going to want to get the most out of it. They've been really close-matched games and I expect the same tonight."


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