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Penguins vs. Capitals Game Preview

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins

Overall:
36-19-5-75
Home: 20-10-1-41
Road: 16-9-4-36

WHEN: Feb. 21, 2011 - 7:30 pm   |   WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center
WATCH:
Versus  |  LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
Washington Capitals
Overall:
31-19-10-72
Home: 17-7-7-41
Road:
14-12-3-31

  Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals 
 
      
Alexander Semin
LW  -  #28
  21 Goals
  19 Assists
  40 Points
• Recorded his fourth hat trick of the season on Feb. 16 against the Ducks, joining Buffalo’s Drew Stafford as the only other NHL player to have four three-goal outings this season.

• Is second on the team in goals (21) and third in points (40) despite playing in just 45 games so far this season, as he missed 12-straight contests from Jan. 11 to Feb. 6 with an injury.

• The first goal of his hat trick ended a 17-game goalless drought for Semin, the longest of his NHL career – prior to Feb. 16 his last tally came on Nov. 28 against Carolina.
 
Marcus Johansson
C  -  #90
  9 Goals
  7 Assists
  16 Points
• Became the first Washington rookie to score a shorthanded goal since Alex Ovechkin in 2005-06 on Feb. 6 against Pittsburgh.

• The 20-year-old center – in his first NHL season after playing last season with Farjestads BK of the Swedish Elite League – was drafted by the Capitals in the first round (24th overall) in the 2009 Entry Draft.

• Represented Sweden at the World Junior Championships in 2009 and 2010, captaining the team in the most recent tournament.
 
Karl Alzner
D  -  #27
  2 goals
  8 assists
  10 points
• The defenseman earned three assists in the Capitals’ 7-6 win over Anaheim on Feb. 16, marking a single-game career high and his first multiple-point game since Dec. 6, 2008 vs. Toronto.

• The stay-at-home blueliner was named the Canadian Major Junior Defenseman of the Year in 2007-08 after being drafted by Washington in the first round (seventh overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

• Won back-to-back World Junior Championship gold medals with Canada in 2007 and as team captain in 2008.
Monday’s game marks the end of a five-game road swing for Washington, who arrives in Pittsburgh fresh off a 2-1 victory over Buffalo on Sunday. It’s also the second of three-consecutive sets of back-to-back contests for the Capitals.

The normally offensive-minded Capitals, who rank second in the Southeast Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference with 72 points, have been hard at work forging a new identity for themselves this season by clamping down on the back end.

They have certainly taken strides defensively, ranking seventh in the league with a 2.47 goals-against average (they haven’t been in the top 12 in that category since the 1999-00 campaign) and their penalty kill is fifth in the league with an 85.2-percent success rate.

But despite their major improvement on the back end, they’ve been struggling to produce on the front end and on the power play – both areas that are normally pure gold for Washington with names like Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom dotting its roster.

The return of Semin on Feb. 8 after missing 12-straight games due to injury did provide a boost to the Capitals’ offense, especially when the dynamic Russian sniper exploded for a hat trick in Washington’s 7-6 victory over Anaheim on Feb. 16. But while Washington’s seven-goal output was impressive – as five different players scored a goal and 11 notched a point – it hasn’t been the norm for the Capitals so far this season, as they have just four players with more than 30 points. Their power play is currently ranked 22nd in the league with a 16.6-percent success rate after finishing first last season and second the year before that.
  • Monday marks the fourth and final meeting between the Penguins and the Capitals this season and Washington’s first-ever trip to CONSOL Energy Center (as their other meeting in Pittsburgh was played at Heinz Field on Jan. 1). The Capitals have won six-straight visits to Pittsburgh and is 6-0-1 in their last seven.
  • Seven of the past 18 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, 2010.
  • Overtime has been Washington’s kryptonite so far this season. After starting the season 5-0 in overtime games, they’ve now gone 1-10 since Nov. 13 – including eight-straight overtime losses. Their last win in overtime or a shootout came on Nov. 28, when they toppled Carolina in a shootout.
  • Capitals forward Mike Knuble has scored 30 career goals against Pittsburgh through 60 contests. With his third-period tally in the two teams’ last meeting on Feb. 6, Knuble has now scored in seven-straight games versus the Penguins (with all seven being played as a Capital), and has notched at least one point in each of his last 11 games against Pittsburgh.
  • Monday marks the back end of the Penguins’ 12th set of back-to-back games. To date Pittsburgh owns a 15-5-3 overall record in back-to-backs, with an 8-3-1 record the first night and a 7-2-2 mark the second night. The Penguins have five sets of back-to-backs remaining this season, with their next set coming Feb. 25 at Carolina and Feb. 26 at Toronto.

 

      
Win the Faceoffs Battle: The Capitals have been dynamite off the draw, with their 52.5-percent success rate in the faceoff dot third in the National Hockey League (and tops in the Eastern Conference). They’re led by center David Steckel, whose 64.2-percent success rate in the dot paces the entire league. The Penguins’ centers – Jordan Staal, Maxime Talbot, Craig Adams and Joe Vitale – have been buckling down in the dot with the absence of Sidney Crosby, who is normally Pittsburgh’s go-to guy on draws. They’ll need to continue that success against the Capitals on Monday – especially in the Penguins’ defensive zone.

Third Period: The third period has been Washington’s kryptonite as of late. The Capitals have lost four out of their last six games, with the backbreaking tally coming in the final frame of each loss. Washington has allowed at least one goal in the third period in each of their last five games prior to Sunday’s tilt against Buffalo for a total of nine goals against. In three of those games, they entered the final frame with the score tied. The Penguins will need to make sure they play a complete 60 minutes against Washington and continue to make life difficult for the Capitals in the third period, like Pittsburgh did against Chicago on Sunday.
F Arron Asham, upper body (IR)
F Mike Comrie, hip (IR)
F Sidney Crosby, concussion (IR)
F Dustin Jeffrey, lower body (IR)
F Nick Johnson, upper body (day-to-day)
F Chris Kunitz, lower body (IR)
F Mark Letestu, lower body (IR)
F Evgeni Malkin, torn ACL and torn MCL (will miss remainder of season)
F Eric Tangradi, concussion-like symptoms (indefinitely)
F Eric Fehr, shoulder (2-3 weeks)
D Mike Green, inner-ear trauma (day-to-day)
D Tom Poti, lower-body (day-to-day)
 
 
 
 
G
Crosby (32) Ovechkin (23)
A
Letang (37) Ovechkin/Backstrom (38)
PTS
Crosby (66) Ovechkin (61)
PIM
Cooke (106) Hendricks (84)
+/-
Crosby/Goligoski (+20) Carlson (+17)
PP
Crosby (10) Semin (6)
SH
Cooke (3)
Six tied with (1)
W/L
Fleury (27-14-3)
Neuvirth (17-9-4)
GAA
Johnson (2.27) Varlamov (2.27)
SVP
Fleury (.921) Varlamov (.923)

Brett Sterling - Sterling scored the game-tying goal with 3:18 remaining in regulation to force overtime and net the Penguins a point in the standings in Pittsburgh’s 3-2 shootout loss to Chicago on Sunday. The 5-foot-7, 175-pound sniper has netted a point in all five games (3G-2A) he has played since his Feb. 10 recall from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. His point spree has him tied with Jordan Staal for the longest active scoring streak on the team and has him playing on Pittsburgh’s first line (alongside Staal and Pascal Dupuis) and top power-play unit.
 
Alex Ovechkin - Ovechkin netted a helper in Sunday’s 2-1 win over the Sabres to extend his point streak to three games. He had scored a goal and an assist in each of the Capitals’ two games prior, a 3-2 loss to San Jose on Feb. 17 and a 7-6 win over Anaheim on Feb. 16. He now has 10 points (4G-6A) in his last eight games, logging 20-plus minutes of ice in each of his last 12 tilts and firing a combined 22 shots on goal over his last four games.
 
 
 
 

Fan Guide vs. Washington
Staal Gives 'Thumbs Up' After Scare
 
'Cookie' Monster in Return 
Aftermath: Blackhawks 3, Penguins 2 (SO) 
Penguins Report: 2/19/11 
Local Product Joins Penguins Organization 
Above-Average Joe 
CONSOL Energy Center Public Tours to Begin February 21


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WHEN: Feb. 21, 2011 - 7:30 pm
WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center
WATCH: Versus
LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM



SCOUTING REPORT

Monday’s game marks the end of a five-game road swing for Washington, who arrives in Pittsburgh fresh off a 2-1 victory over Buffalo on Sunday. It’s also the second of three-consecutive sets of back-to-back contests for the Capitals.

The normally offensive-minded Capitals, who rank second in the Southeast Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference with 72 points, have been hard at work forging a new identity for themselves this season by clamping down on the back end.

They have certainly taken strides defensively, ranking seventh in the league with a 2.47 goals-against average (they haven’t been in the top 12 in that category since the 1999-00 campaign) and their penalty kill is fifth in the league with an 85.2-percent success rate.

But despite their major improvement on the back end, they’ve been struggling to produce on the front end and on the power play – both areas that are normally pure gold for Washington with names like Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom dotting its roster.

The return of Semin on Feb. 8 after missing 12-straight games due to injury did provide a boost to the Capitals’ offense, especially when the dynamic Russian sniper exploded for a hat trick in Washington’s 7-6 victory over Anaheim on Feb. 16. But while Washington’s seven-goal output was impressive – as five different players scored a goal and 11 notched a point – it hasn’t been the norm for the Capitals so far this season, as they have just four players with more than 30 points. Their power play is currently ranked 22nd in the league with a 16.6-percent success rate after finishing first last season and second the year before that.


INTERESTING STATS

* Monday marks the fourth and final meeting between the Penguins and the Capitals this season and Washington’s first-ever trip to CONSOL Energy Center (as their other meeting in Pittsburgh was played at Heinz Field on Jan. 1). The Capitals have won six-straight visits to Pittsburgh and is 6-0-1 in their last seven.

* Seven of the past 18 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, 2010.

* Overtime has been Washington’s kryptonite so far this season. After starting the season 5-0 in overtime games, they’ve now gone 1-10 since Nov. 13 – including eight-straight overtime losses. Their last win in overtime or a shootout came on Nov. 28, when they toppled Carolina in a shootout.

* Capitals forward Mike Knuble has scored 30 career goals against Pittsburgh through 60 contests. With his third-period tally in the two teams’ last meeting on Feb. 6, Knuble has now scored in seven-straight games versus the Penguins (with all seven being played as a Capital), and has notched at least one point in each of his last 11 games against Pittsburgh.

* Monday marks the back end of the Penguins’ 12th set of back-to-back games. To date Pittsburgh owns a 15-5-3 overall record in back-to-backs, with an 8-3-1 record the first night and a 7-2-2 mark the second night. The Penguins have five sets of back-to-backs remaining this season, with their next set coming Feb. 25 at Carolina and Feb. 26 at Toronto.


KEYS TO THE GAME

Win the Faceoffs Battle: The Capitals have been dynamite off the draw, with their 52.5-percent success rate in the faceoff dot third in the National Hockey League (and tops in the Eastern Conference). They’re led by center David Steckel, whose 64.2-percent success rate in the dot paces the entire league. The Penguins’ centers – Jordan Staal, Maxime Talbot, Craig Adams and Joe Vitale – have been buckling down in the dot with the absence of Sidney Crosby, who is normally Pittsburgh’s go-to guy on draws. They’ll need to continue that success against the Capitals on Monday – especially in the Penguins’ defensive zone.

Third Period: The third period has been Washington’s kryptonite as of late. The Capitals have lost four out of their last six games, with the backbreaking tally coming in the final frame of each loss. Washington has allowed at least one goal in the third period in each of their last five games prior to Sunday’s tilt against Buffalo for a total of nine goals against. In three of those games, they entered the final frame with the score tied. The Penguins will need to make sure they play a complete 60 minutes against Washington and continue to make life difficult for the Capitals in the third period, like Pittsburgh did against Chicago on Sunday.


WHO'S HOT

Brett Sterling - Sterling scored the game-tying goal with 3:15 remaining in regulation to force overtime and net the Penguins a point in the standings in Pittsburgh’s 3-2 shootout loss to Chicago on Sunday. The 5-foot-7, 175-pound sniper has netted a point in all five games (3G-2A) he has played since his Feb. 10 recall from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. His point spree has him tied with Jordan Staal for the longest active scoring streak on the team and has him playing on Pittsburgh’s first line (alongside Staal and Pascal Dupuis) and top power-play unit.

Alex Ovechkin - Ovechkin netted a helper in Sunday’s 2-1 win over the Sabres to extend his point streak to three games. He had scored a goal and an assist in each of the Capitals’ two games prior, a 3-2 loss to San Jose on Feb. 17 and a 7-6 win over Anaheim on Feb. 16. He now has 10 points (4G-6A) in his last eight games, logging 20-plus minutes of ice in each of his last 12 tilts and firing a combined 22 shots on goal over his last four games.




Author: Michelle Crechiolo
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