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Penguins vs. Capitals Winter Classic Preview

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins

Home: 13-6-1-27
Road: 12-5-2-26

WHEN: Jan. 1, 2011 - 8:00 pm   |   WHERE: Heinz Field
NBC  |  LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
Washington Capitals
Home: 14-4-4-32

  Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals 
Jason Chimera
LW  -  #25
  5 Goals
  6 Assists
  11 Points
• Is the only Capital to have played an outdoor game – as a member of
the Oilers in the 2003 Heritage Classic

• Traded to the Capitals from Columbus last December, in exchange for
Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina.

• Registered 200th NHL point with a goal Dec. 21 against New Jersey.
Nicklas Backstrom
C  -  #19
  11 Goals
  25 Assists
  36 Points
• Played an impressive game against the Penguins on Dec. 23, as he tallied an assist and blocked three shots while logging 25:11 of ice time.

• Notched career highs last year with 101 points (33G-68A), and he played in all 82 games.

• In just 13 games played against the Penguins he tallied 21 points (1G-20A).
Mike Green
D  -  #52
  7 goals
   10 assists 
  17 points
• Despite a slow start to the 2010-11 season, Green is always dangerous, especially for a defenseman. He put up more than 70 points in each of the last two seasons, and is frequently a nominee for the Norris Trophy

• He had one of his best games of the season against Pittsburgh on Dec. 23. He had one goal on six shots, while blocking five shots and dishing out eight hits.

• Almost won the Dec. 23 game for the Capitals, if not for a brilliant goal-line save by Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Washington Capitals have long been famous for their offensively-gifted snipers and their ability to score goals. But as the saying goes, “Defense wins championships,” and that’s the mentality head coach Bruce Boudreau has adapted as of late.

And it’s been working for them. Since their eight-game losing streak, which spanned from Dec. 2 to Dec. 18, the Capitals have gone 4-0-1 in their past five games. They’ve surrendered just 12 goals in their last seven games and are on a roll.

Entering the highly-anticipated 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, the Penguins have a three-point lead in the Eastern Conference standings over the Capitals.

Their top guns have been chipping in to help spur the Capitals’ surge, most notably Alex Ovechkin. He’s scored in two-straight games after tallying just twice in the previous 19 games. Their depth players have also been getting on the scoresheet, with rookie Jay Beagle also scoring on Tuesday to give him two goals in four games.

Each of their 22-year-old goaltenders is making solid cases to be named the starter between the pipes on Saturday in Pittsburgh. Semyon Varlamov just backstopped his team to a 3-0 whitewashing of Montreal on Tuesday, while Michal Neuvirth has a 14-6-3 record, a .911 save percentage and a 2.56 goals-against average on the season.

Defenseman Jeff Schultz made his return to the lineup against the Canadiens after missing nine games with a fractured right thumb. They’ve sorely missed the consistency of the 6-foot-6, 225-pound blueliner, who won the NHL’s Plus-Minus Award in 2009-10 with a plus-50 rating. He joins Mike Green, who has also been playing a more all-around game for Washington after tallying a combined 149 points over the past two seasons. The recently-acquired veteran Scott Hannan and second-year sensation John Carlson round out the defense.
  • Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin both enter the game with the exact same number of career points (571), but Crosby has played 25 less games. Since they both entered the league in the 2005-06 season, no other player has that many points. Only San Jose’s Joe Thornton comes close with 542 points.
  • The game marks Pittsburgh’s second-ever outdoor game. But only eight current Penguins played in the elements. For Washington – which has never played outdoors – only one player participated in a game played outside. Jason Chimera played for the Oilers in the 2003 Heritage Classic.
  • Seven of the past 16 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.
  • Since Crosby and Ovechkin entered the league, the Penguins and Capitals played each other 31 times. Of those games, 17 were decided by one goal or in overtime. The Penguins hold the slight advantage in such games with a nine wins and eight losses or overtime losses.
  • In the past 26 games, Sidney Crosby notched 50 points (26G-24A), and he completed his impressive career-high 25-game scoring streak. In Ovechkin’s previous 26 games, he tallied 25 points (6G-19A).
  • In the four previous outdoor NHL games, the home team holds a 1-3 record. The only home team to win was the Boston Bruins, who defeated Philadelphia 2-1 in overtime a year ago.


Play Simple: There’s a possibility of rain on Saturday, which will have an effect on the Penguins’ game. Not only will a downpour make visibility a problem, but the ice surface won’t be as smooth as an indoor rink, which could cause a lot of funny bounces and stoppages. The team will need to focus on making the simple plays, whether it be dumping the puck instead of making a pretty pass or playing more conservatively in the offensive zone.

Adapt Quickly: The Penguins are used to playing in an arena that holds up to 18,087 people. On Saturday, they’ll be playing in front of 70,000 fans in a completely different setting. The atmosphere may be overwhelming for some of the players, and they’ll need to adjust to their surroundings quickly.

C Jordan Staal, broken right hand (day-to-day)
F Mike Comrie, hip (IR)
RW Boyd Gordon, undisclosed (1-2 weeks)
RW Matt Bradley, undisclosed (2-4 weeks)
Crosby (32) Semin (18)
Crosby (33) Ovechkin (28)
Crosby (65) Ovechkin (42)
Engelland (76) Hendricks (63)
Crosby (+20) Laich (+12)
Crosby (10) Semin (6)
Adams/Cooke (2)
5 tied (1)
Fleury (17-8-2) Neuvirth (14-6-3)
Johnson (2.14) Varlamov (2.28)
Johnson (.925) Varlamov (.919)

Sidney Crosby - Twenty-five games. That’s how long Crosby’s point streak lasted before getting snapped on Wednesday – it’s the longest streak in 18 years, the 11th-longest in NHL history and the third-longest in Penguins franchise history. He scored more goals (26) and points (50) over that stretch, thab only one other player in the league (Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay) had tied over the course of the season. As of Friday, he led the NHL with 32 goals and 65 points.
Alex Ovechkin - After scoring just twice in 19 games, Ovechkin has tallied in the Capitals’ last two games. As of Friday, he was tied for sixth in the league with 42 points (14G-42A) and ranked fifth in the NHL with 28 assists. The Russian sniper seems to be re-discovering his offensive touch for the Capitals over their 4-0-1 stretch.

Penguins vs. Capitals Winter Classic Preview
Penguins vs. Capitals Winter Classic Preview 
Pens Pleasantly Surprised by Ice Conditions 
A Little Rain Won't Dampen the Pens' Spirits 
Family Matters 
Alumni All Smiles After Outdoor Game 
Fans Real Winners in Alumni Game 
Penguins Report: 12/31/10 
Winter Classic Time Changed To 8:00 PM

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Author: Michelle Crechiolo. Tony Jovenitti contributed to this report.

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