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Penguins vs. Capitals Game Preview

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins

Overall:
34-15-4-72
Home: 19-9-1-39
Road: 15-6-3-33

WHEN: Feb. 6, 2011 - 12:30 pm   |   WHERE: Verizon Center
WATCH:
NBC  |  LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
Washington Capitals
Overall:
28-15-10-66
Home: 16-5-7-39
Road:
12-10-3-29

  Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals 
 
      
Mike Knuble
RW  -  #22
  12 Goals
  9 Assists
  21 Points
• The veteran forward always brings his “A” game against the Penguins – he’s racked up 29 goals and 43 points in 59 career games played against Pittsburgh.

• Scored four goals and two assists in six games against Pittsburgh last season, then proceeded to score the game-tying goal in the two teams’ first meeting on Dec. 23, 2010, an eventual 3-2 shootout win by the Penguins

• The Capitals alternate captain is more than halfway to his eighth-consecutive 20-goal season, with just nine other players scoring 20 times in each of the last seven seasons.
 
Mathieu Perreault
C  -  #85
  6 Goals
  5 Assists
  11 Points
• Has been a sparkplug for the Capitals this season, with four of his 26 games being multiple-point efforts and scoring three points (1G-2A) in two games since being recalled on Jan. 31.

• Posted 50 points in each of his last two seasons with Hershey, with 25 points (8G-17A) in 25 games with the Bears at the time of his Jan. 31 recall.

• The 23-year-old Quebec native was drafted in the sixth round (177th overall) by Washington in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
 
Jeff Schultz
D  -  #55
  0 goals
   6 assists 
  6 points
• The 6-foot-6, 225-pound blueliner won the NHL’s Plus-Minus Award last season with a plus-50 rating.

• The 24-year-old defenseman is in his fourth full season with the team after splitting the 2006-07 campaign between Washington and Hershey.

• The blueliner, who was drafted by the Capitals in the first round (27th overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, ranks third on the team with 90 blocked shots.
It’s no secret that the Capitals, who rank fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 28-15-10 record and 66 points, have long been a team known for their offensive firepower. But they’ve been hard at work forging a new identity for themselves this season as they've been clamping down on the back end.

They rank eighth in the league with a 2.43 goals-against average (they haven’t been in the top 12 in that category since finishing fourth in the 1999-00 season) and their penalty kill is clicking at an 86.2-percent success rate, good for second in the league behind the Penguins. Washington hasn’t finished higher than 17th in that category in the past eight years.

While they've been struggling a bit to find offense (they’ve been shut out seven times in their last 34 games, which is three more shutouts than the team endured in the past two seasons combined), their top guns are showing flashes of brilliance.

Alex Ovechkin’s numbers haven’t been up to his normal impressive output, but he’s looking like his old self during this second half of the season. He put up a four-point performance in a 5-2 win over Tampa Bay on Friday, scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal and adding three helpers. The Capitals captain has been clutch for his team, as he now has an NHL-leading seven game-winning goals on the season and has assisted on five others.

His linemate Nicklas Backstrom also stepped up in a big way on Friday. He had a pair of goals and two assists against the Lightning, which upped his point total to 50 (14G-36A). Backstrom’s playmaking ability is second to none, with his 36 helpers ranking fifth (tied) in the league. He and Ovechkin have been playing well with the speedy Jason Chimera on their right wing – Chimera chipped in with two points, a goal and an assist, against the Lightning.

The goaltending duel continues between the pipes for Washington between 22-year-old netminders Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov. Right now it’s Varlamov that’s been Boudreau’s goalie of choice, and he’s been proving that to be a wise decision. Varlamov has allowed just 19 goals in his last 11 games, ranking third among NHL goaltenders with a .928 save percentage and his 2.13 goals-against average good for third.
  • The Penguins announced on Feb. 5 that forward Evgeni Malkin is out with a torn ACL and MCL. He sustained the injury in a collison with the Sabres' Tyler Myers in the opening seconds of the second period on Feb. 4 against Buffalo. It is unclear at this point whether he will need surgery or if there are other rehabilitation possibilities. Malkin has recorded 37 points (15G-22A) through 43 games this season. His 15 goals and 37 points both rank third on the team.
  • A win against the Capitals on Feb. 6 would give head coach Dan Bylsma the 100th win of his NHL career. Bylsma, who will celebrate his two-year anniversary as head coach on Feb. 15, surpassed Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman for third place on the team’s all-time wins list with the Penguins’ 1-0 defeat of the New York Islanders on Jan. 25. That game marked Bylsma’s 96th career win. Bylsma is on pace to become just the second coach in franchise history to lead his team to 50 or more wins in a single season.
  • The league’s top-two penalty killing units will go head-to-head on Sunday. The Penguins are first in the league with an 88.7-percent success rate, while the Capitals are right behind with a penalty kill that’s clicking at an 86.2-percent success rate. Pittsburgh has been perfect on the penalty kill in 11 of their past 13 games, killing off 48 of 51 (94.1 percent) opposition power plays, while Washington has stymied 33 of 35 opposition power plays (94.3 percent).
  • Seven of the past 17 games between the Penguins and Capitals have been decided in overtime or a shootout, including three games of the seven-game series in the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals. The Penguins hold a 4-3 record in those seven overtime contests, the latest of which was the 3-2 shootout win in Washington on Dec. 23.

 

      
Don't Let Them Take Leads Into Intermission: The Capitals have yet to lose a game in regulation this season when leading after both the first 20 minutes and the first 40 minutes. They’re 13-0-5 when ahead at the first intermission and 19-0-2 when having the lead entering the third period.

Contain Their First Line: The line of left wing Alex Ovechkin, center Nicklas Backstrom and right wing Jason Chimera has been dynamite for the Capitals over their past few games since being paired together by head coach Bruce Boudreau. The trio combined for 10 points and four of the Capitals' five goals in Washington's 5-2 win over Tampa Bay on Friday.

Watch Out For Their Depth Players: Certain players not named Ovechkin or Backstrom always come up big against the Penguins, namely veteran forward Mike Knuble. He's got seven points (5G-2A) in his last eight games against Pittsburgh and is a player to be watched on Sunday.

F Arron Asham, upper body (day-to-day)
F Mike Comrie, injured reserve/hip (indefinitely)
C Sidney Crosby, injured reserve/mild concussion (indefinitely)
F Mark Letestu, lower body (4-6 weeks)
C Evgeni Malkin, torn ACL & MCL (indefinitely)
D Tom Poti, lower-body (day-to-day)
RW Eric Fehr, upper-body (3-4 weeks)
RW Alexander Semin, lower-body (day-to-day)
 
 
 
 
G
Crosby (32) Ovechkin (20)
A
Crosby/Letang (34) Backstrom (36)
PTS
Crosby (65) Ovechkin (55)
PIM
Cooke (94) Hendricks (82)
+/-
Letang (+23) Backstrom (+18)
PP
Crosby (10) Semin (6)
SH
Three tied with (2)
Five tied with (1)
W/L
Fleury (25-11-2) Neuvirth (15-6-4)
GAA
Johnson (1.90) Varlamov (2.13)
SVP
Johnson (.929) Varlamov (.928)

Matt Cooke - Cooke put up arguably his best performance of the season against Buffalo on Friday at CONSOL Energy Center. Not only did he score the game-winning goal in the middle frame to put the Penguins up 3-2, a lead they would not relinquish, but he wreaked havoc all over the ice. Cooke managed to throw seven hits despite getting a 10-minute game misconduct penalty halfway through the second period after scoring his goal, upping his season total to a team-leading 161 checks. Cooke, normally a shorthanded specialist as his five shorthanded points (2G-3A) is first (tied) in the league, capped off his night by throwing four pucks at the net through 13:36 of ice time.
 
Nicklas Backstrom - The center burst out with two goals and two assists on Friday to propel the Capitals past the Lightning, 5-2. He tied the game at 1-1 at the 9:09 mark of the first after the Lightning had jumped to an early 1-0 lead and added a crucial insurance tally goal at the 12:22 mark of the third to put Washington up 4-2. Backstrom finished the night with five shots on goal and three blocked shots. Although he’d been held pointless in the three games prior to Friday’s tilt, Backstrom had embarked on a five-game point stretch from Jan. 14-22 where he tallied seven points (1G-6A), with those six helpers being an example of the Swedish forward’s stellar playmaking skills.
 
 
 
 

Penguins Report: 2/5/11
Aftermath: Penguins 3, Sabres 2 
Notebook: A Total Team Effort 
A Complementary Pair 
Letang's Strong Play has Earned Norris Consideration
Pittsburgh Penguins and the American Red Cross Score One For Life!
Penguins Support Womansplace Shelters
 With Game-Day Cell Phone Drive
 

If this widget fails to load, click here to read latest PghPenguins Tweets.



WHEN: Feb. 6, 2010 - 12:30 pm
WHERE: Verizon Center
WATCH: NBC
LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM



SCOUTING REPORT

t's no secret that the Capitals, who rank fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 28-15-10 record and 66 points, have long been a team known for their offensive firepower. But they've been hard at work forging a new identity for themselves this season as they've been clamping down on the back end.

They rank eighth in the league with a 2.43 goals-against average (they haven't been in the top 12 in that category since finishing fourth in the 1999-00 season) and their penalty kill is clicking at an 86.2-percent success rate, good for second in the league behind the Penguins. Washington hasn't finished higher than 17th in that category in the past eight years.

While they've been struggling a bit to find offense (they've been shut out seven times in their last 34 games, which is three more shutouts than the team endured in the past two seasons combined), their top guns are showing flashes of brilliance.

Alex Ovechkin's numbers haven't been up to his normal impressive output, but he's looking like his old self during this second half of the season. He put up a four-point performance in a 5-2 win over Tampa Bay on Friday, scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal and adding three helpers. The Capitals captain has been clutch for his team, as he now has an NHL-leading seven game-winning goals on the season and has assisted on five others.

His linemate Nicklas Backstrom also stepped up in a big way on Friday. He had a pair of goals and two assists against the Lightning, which upped his point total to 50 (14G-36A). Backstrom's playmaking ability is second to none, with his 36 helpers ranking fifth (tied) in the league. He and Ovechkin have been playing well with the speedy Jason Chimera on their right wing – Chimera chipped in with two points, a goal and an assist, against the Lightning.

The goaltending duel continues between the pipes for Washington between 22-year-old netminders Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov. Right now it's Varlamov that's been Boudreau's goalie of choice, and he's been proving that to be a wise decision. Varlamov has allowed just 19 goals in his last 11 games, ranking third among NHL goaltenders with a .928 save percentage and his 2.13 goals-against average good for third.


INTERESTING STATS

* The Penguins announced on Feb. 5 that forward Evgeni Malkin is out with a torn ACL and MCL. He sustained the injury in a collison with the Sabres' Tyler Myers in the opening seconds of the second period on Feb. 4 against Buffalo. It is unclear at this point whether he will need surgery or if there are other rehabilitation possibilities. Malkin has recorded 37 points (15G-22A) through 43 games this season. His 15 goals and 37 points both rank third on the team.

* A win against the Capitals on Feb. 6 would give head coach Dan Bylsma the 100th win of his NHL career. Bylsma, who will celebrate his two-year anniversary as head coach on Feb. 15, surpassed Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman for third place on the team's all-time wins list with the Penguins' 1-0 defeat of the New York Islanders on Jan. 25. That game marked Bylsma's 96th career win. Bylsma is on pace to become just the second coach in franchise history to lead his team to 50 or more wins in a single season.

* The league's top-two penalty killing units will go head-to-head on Sunday. The Penguins are first in the league with an 88.7-percent success rate, while the Capitals are right behind with a penalty kill that's clicking at an 86.2-percent success rate. Pittsburgh has been perfect on the penalty kill in 11 of their past 13 games, killing off 48 of 51 (94.1 percent) opposition power plays, while Washington has stymied 33 of 35 opposition power plays (94.3 percent).

* Seven of the past 17 games between the Penguins and Capitals have been decided in overtime or a shootout, including three games of the seven-game series in the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals. The Penguins hold a 4-3 record in those seven overtime contests, the latest of which was the 3-2 shootout win in Washington on Dec. 23.


KEYS TO THE GAME

Don't Let Them Take Leads Into Intermission: The Capitals have yet to lose a game in regulation this season when leading after both the first 20 minutes and the first 40 minutes. They're 13-0-5 when ahead at the first intermission and 19-0-2 when having the lead entering the third period.

Contain Their First Line: The line of left wing Alex Ovechkin, center Nicklas Backstrom and right wing Jason Chimera has been dynamite for the Capitals over their past few games since being paired together by head coach Bruce Boudreau. The trio combined for 10 points and four of the Capitals' five goals in Washington's 5-2 win over Tampa Bay on Friday.

Watch Out For Their Depth Players: Certain players not named Ovechkin or Backstrom always come up big against the Penguins, namely veteran forward Mike Knuble. He's got seven points (5G-2A) in his last eight games against Pittsburgh and is a player to be watched on Sunday.


WHO'S HOT

Matt Cooke - Cooke put up arguably his best performance of the season against Buffalo on Friday at CONSOL Energy Center. Not only did he score the game-winning goal in the middle frame to put the Penguins up 3-2, a lead they would not relinquish, but he wreaked havoc all over the ice. Cooke managed to throw seven hits despite getting a 10-minute game misconduct penalty halfway through the second period after scoring his goal, upping his season total to a team-leading 161 checks. Cooke, normally a shorthanded specialist as his five shorthanded points (2G-3A) is first (tied) in the league, capped off his night by throwing four pucks at the net through 13:36 of ice time.

Nicklas Backstrom - The center burst out with two goals and two assists on Friday to propel the Capitals past the Lightning, 5-2. He tied the game at 1-1 at the 9:09 mark of the first after the Lightning had jumped to an early 1-0 lead and added a crucial insurance tally goal at the 12:22 mark of the third to put Washington up 4-2. Backstrom finished the night with five shots on goal and three blocked shots. Although he'd been held pointless in the three games prior to Friday's tilt, Backstrom had embarked on a five-game point stretch from Jan. 14-22 where he tallied seven points (1G-6A), with those six helpers being an example of the Swedish forward's stellar playmaking skills.



Author: Michelle Crechiolo

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