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Penguins Report: Game Day at Washington

by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

Tonight isn't just a rivalry between two teams; it's also a rivalry between two NHL superstars who are both at the top of their games and dominating the league.

Pens captain Sidney Crosby enters tonight’s contest tied with Alexander Steen of the St. Louis Blues for the NHL point lead with 26; while Ovechkin and Steen are tied for the league lead with 17 goals. Since the beginning of last season, Crosby leads all NHL players with 82 points (25G-57A), while Ovechkin is tied for second with 80 points (49G-31A). Ovechkin’s 49 goals lead all NHL players, while Crosby’s 1.44 point-per-game average is tops in the league.

Crosby and Ovechkin have gone head-to-head 25 times in their career. During those games, Crosby has outscored Ovechkin, 43-32. Pittsburgh has a record of 16-7-2 in those 25 games.

The two of them have dealt with a lot of personal ups and downs since they entered the league together as rookies back in the 2005-06 campaign. But Crosby told us this morning that no matter where he and Ovechkin are in their careers, he has no problem getting motivated for the head-to-head matchup with the Caps left winger.

"No matter where we stand and those things, it’s kind of built up as a rivalry here since we started playing against each other," Crosby said. "The fact that we started well early on might add to it, but I think it’s always kind of been there no matter where the teams were or where we were individually. Kind of always got up for those ones."

Although we've been talking a lot about the Sid-Ovi matchup going into this game, it's important not to forget about Evgeni Malkin, who joined the league a season after they did. The three players have amassed the highest point-per-game averages of all NHL players during that span: Crosby's is 1.41, Ovechkin's is 1.22 and Malkin's is 1.21. And since the 2005-06 season, the trio has combined to win 5 of 8 Hart Trophies (Malkin, 2; Ovechkin, 2; Crosby 1); 6 of 8 Ted Lindsay Awards (Ovechkin, 3; Crosby, 2; Malkin, 1) and 4 of 8 Art Ross Trophies (Malkin, 2; Ovechkin, 2; Crosby, 1).

"Since they got into the league, people are always saying who’s the best player, Sid or Ovi, Sid or Ovi? 'Geno' is in the mix too," Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis said. "It’s one of those nights where definitely Sid raises his level. Geno as well. I think Ovechkin has got some good games against us too, so we definitely want to win this one."

Malkin enters tonight’s game leading all NHL players with 10 assists during the month of November and has collected at least one assist in seven of his past eight games. He recorded his team-leading 16th and 17th helpers against Anaheim on Monday to give him a pair of multiple-point games over his previous three contests, and this season the Penguins are 5-0 when Malkin collects two or more points. He's been setting up everyone's goals and hasn't been able to put in any of his own lately, but that could change tonight. It's certainly something to watch for.

Stick tap to Pens PR for the numbers!

--Michelle Crechiolo


Sidney Crosby

--Michelle Crechiolo

Hear from Bylsma, Crosby, Dupuis, Orpik and Martin about tonight's matchup...

--Michelle Crechiolo

Coach Bylsma said following morning skate that Marc-Andre Fleury will start in net and the rest of the lineup is a game-time decision.

In terms of injury updates, Bylsma was asked about goalie Tomas Vokoun, who underwent surgery to dissolve a blood clot in his pelvis on Sept. 21 and was given 3-6 month timetable for recovery, as well as defenseman Rob Scuderi, who had surgery to repair a broken ankle on Oct. 30 and was given a 6-8 week timetable for recovery.

Bylsma said there will not be an update on Vokoun until at least three months have passed (which will be in late December). For Scuderi, he said "his rehab is still off the ice and not in a high-impact way yet. We're just after the three-week mark of 6-8 weeks on Rob."

--Michelle Crechiolo


Bennett and coach Bylsma stretch and talk prior to the morning skate

Malkin is back on the ice after his Tuesday maintenance day

Waiting in line for the next drill

Any time Crosby comes to Washington it's a big deal

Fleury stretching for his practice punts. Or doing the hokey pokey. You decide.

D'Agostini tapes up on the bench.

Super Duper

Joey V. looks on at a drill

Martin in full concentration. He's got a big night ahead of him

--Michelle Crechiolo & Sam Kasan

All Pens were present for morning skate at Verizon Center, including Evgeni Malkin -- who had a maintenance day on Tuesday. They did not do line rushes, but as I talked about in my previous entry, coach Dan Bylsma said yesterday the plan is going to stick with the adjusted combinations for tonight, at least to start.

The Pens' first power-play unit remained the same: Letang, Malkin, Crosby, Neal and Kunitz.
The personnel on the second unit changed, but the guys used were Martin, Niskanen, Bennett, Sutter, Dupuis and Jokinen.

--Michelle Crechiolo

The Pens practiced Tuesday with the same lines they used in Monday’s 3-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks, and coach Dan Bylsma said he is going to stick with those adjusted combinations on Wednesday against the Washington Capitals.

“We’re on the road, so the matchup is going to be a little bit different in terms of them getting the last change and putting their players in the positions they want offensively,” Bylsma said “So there’ll be some adjustment throughout the game knowing those situations, but yes, it’s the same lines to start the game.”

For a refresher on the line changes and to hear the guys talk about how they feel the switches worked on Monday, the full story is here.

--Michelle Crechiolo

The Caps are absolutely red-hot right now (pun intended, ha). They are 7-1-1 in November and have won six in a row at home. Watch the video below to get the details from Sam Kasan on just why they are doing so well (hint: Alex Ovechkin isn't the only player excelling for Washington; Braden Holtby is playing out of his mind right now). And you can read the preview here.

--Michelle Crechiolo

Good morning from the nation's capital! The Pens are in DC to play the Washington Capitals tonight at Verizon Center, which will be broadcast at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Network as part of their Rivalry Night.
Games between Pittsburgh and Washington have always been exciting, especially after their playoff series in 2009 which, as coach Dan Bylsma said yesterday, "really set the stage for this rivalry and these two teams." But we are especially looking forward to this game in particular, as there seems to be no shortage of storylines going into it. First and foremost, it's the first meeting of the season between the teams as Metropolitan Division rivals and first place is on the line. The Pens have a one-point lead over the Caps, who won three in a row and seven out of nine to leapfrog them into the top spot on Sunday before Pittsburgh regained the edge on Monday with its 4-1 win over Anaheim.

In addition, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin both appear poised to battle all season long for the right to be called the ‘best player in the game.’ They've been absolutely dominating the NHL, as Crosby enters tonight tied with Alex Steen of the St. Louis Blues for the NHL point lead with 26, while Ovechkin and Steen are tied for the league lead with 17 goals.

The Pens are scheduled to hit the ice at 11:30 a.m. for morning skate (the Caps held their morning skate at their practice facility, so unfortunately we weren’t able to speak with any of them). While we wait, here's a few more notes going into the game.

We'll elaborate more on the matchup after we speak to the guys following morning skate...
  • Last season the Penguins swept the season series (3-0) against the Capitals for the first time since 2006-07 (4-0).
  • In Pittsburgh’s only visit to Washington last season, the Penguins earned a 6-3 win of Feb. 3 as Chris Kunitz scored a career-high four goals. He became the first Penguins player to score four goals in a single game since Jaromir Jagr did so on Oct. 14, 2000 against the NY Rangers, and the first player to accomplish the feat on the road since Mario Lemieux on Jan. 26, 1997 at Montreal.
  • Pittsburgh enters tonight’s game having won four straight games and five of the last six meetings against the Capitals.
  • Tonight the Penguins are looking to break the team’s three-game losing streak against division foes. This season the Penguins have gone 6-4 against teams from the Metropolitan Division.

--Michelle Crechiolo

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