NHL Network and ESPN analyst Kevin Weekes will offer his thoughts for big games each week throughout the season.
The Pittsburgh Penguins (4-6-2) visit the Washington Capitals (6-6-2) at Capital One Arena on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; TNT, TVAS). Then the Minnesota Wild (5-6-1) visit the Anaheim Ducks (4-8-1) at Honda Center (10 p.m. ET; TNT, SN360, TVAS, BSW).
Here's my breakdown of the games.
Pluses: No surprise here, but Sidney Crosby (14 points), Evgeni Malkin (12) and Jake Guentzel (10) lead the way up front. And they have been getting scoring depth, with forwards Rickard Rakell (five), Bryan Rust (four), Danton Heinen (three) and Josh Archibald (three) giving Pittsburgh seven players with at least three goals. They just have to clean things up on the other end of the ice to turn it around.
Minuses: Not a lot has gone right for them having lost seven in a row, allowing at least three goals in each and at least five in four. They've been sloppy defensively and blown leads and it's something we're not used to seeing out of them. The Penguins are definitely not playing like the team that began the season 4-0-1. The penalty kill (73.2 percent, 26th) and power play (20.0 percent, tied for 19th) each rank in the bottom half of the League.
Pluses: The good news is they have Alex Ovechkin, who has eight goals and 13 points in 14 games and continues to defy Father Time, and Dylan Strome (12 points; four goals, eight assists) has been a nice addition. Goalie Darcy Kuemper is 4-5-1 but has a .919 save percentage and 2.42 goals-against average. The Capitals have also done well on the power play, ranking sixth (27.1 percent).
Minuses: Washington ended a four-game skid (0-2-2) with a 5-4 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Monday but weren't scoring prior to that game. They had seven goals in their prior four games and 10 in their previous six. The injuries have hurt. Washington is without forwards T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, Connor Brown, Carl Hagelin and Tom Wilson, and defensemen John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov.
Pluses: Kirill Kaprizov is a stud, we know that. He has 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in 12 games and could get more 100 again this season. He got into some trouble Tuesday, taking a match penalty, but will be in the lineup. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has turned it around, and defenseman Calen Addison (seven assists, 17:56 of ice time per game) has shown me something in his rookie season. They got forward Jordan Greenway back Tuesday in a 1-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. He's a big part of that team and brings the physicality every night.
Minuses: I'd like to see them be more consistent. They started 0-3-0 and then won five of seven before being shut out in two straight games (4-0 at home to the Seattle Kraken, 1-0 at the Kings). They have plenty of talent, so they shouldn't be getting shut out in back-to-back games.
Pluses: They have three wins in their past five games and have scored at least three goals in each, which is huge for them because they have always had trouble scoring. Troy Terry has 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 13 games this season, showing last season (67 points; 37 goals, 30 assists) was no fluke. Trevor Zegras has had an impressive rookie season with 12 points (seven goals, five assists) in 13 games.
Minuses: John Gibson has been a good goalie for a long time even when he's played on not-so-good teams. This season, he's got an .887 save percentage and his 4.52 GAA is second worst in the NHL among goalies with at least five games (Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus Blue Jackets, 4.82). The Ducks are also without defenseman Jamie Drysdale for 4-6 months with a shoulder injury, which is a big loss.