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The Inside Scoop: Game 1 vs. Caps

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

The day has finally arrived. The highly anticipated Second Round series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals begins this evening in Game 1 at Verizon Center.

There are plenty of storylines for this matchup:
Series Key: Caps PP vs. Pens PK
Malkin: “We’ll show our best hockey”
Fehr ready to face former team

All of the storylines are covered in full here.

And, of course, a look back at the 2009 showdown.

As for today, here’s a few notes heading into the series’ opening contest.

Pens forward Conor Sheary missed the last two practices with the team for maintenance days. Both he and head coach Mike Sullivan said there are no concerns about his availability for Game 1.

“I feel good,” Sheary said after the morning skate. “My first series I was playing a lot of minutes. There were some little things that were nagging me. I felt good this morning.”

Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik (undisclosed) could return to the lineup for Game 1 tonight. Head coach Barry Trotz said there was “a good chance” he could play.

“It feels better than it did last week,” Orpik said following his team’s morning skate. “I met with doctors today and talked with trainers to see if they clear me. If they clear me, it’s up to the coaches.”

Orpik suffered the injury in Game 3 of the First Round matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers after being hit by Ryan White.

“I probably let me guard down,” Orpik said of the play. “It wasn’t the hardest hit in the world. It was just one of those where you didn’t see it coming and didn’t brace for it.

“I let my guard down. It was a little bit of my own fault.”

Orpik was held off the ice for week before he began skating again.

Orpik will be facing the Pens for the first time in the postseason, the team that drafted him in the first round of the 2000 NHL Draft. Orpik played the first 10-plus seasons of his career with the Pens and has played more games (703) for the Pittsburgh franchise than any other blueliner in team history.

“It’s weird,” Orpik said. “It would be special if we won. A couple years removed from there it’s still weird playing against them, especially when we go there. It’s a little bit different.”

Orpik was a member of the Pens’ 2009 team that upset the Caps in a seven-game series. Pittsburgh went on to win the Stanley Cup. It was a series Orpik remembers vividly.

“Somebody asked me about it the other day and I broke down every game for him,” Orpik said. “It’s different being in this locker room now and talking to guys that were on the other side. It makes for some fun conversations.”

Orpik isn’t the only player from that 2009 series that will be switching sides. Pens forward Eric Fehr was a member of the Caps organization for nine of his first 10 career NHL seasons.

“I remember being pretty disappointed that we lost that one,” Fehr said. “I remember we were up 2-0 and let that one get away. It was a very physical series and I remember just playing at the Mellon Arena, it was a fun arena to play in because it was so loud. It’s interesting how the teams have kind of gone up and down a little bit, but right now, a couple years later, possibly two of the strongest teams in the league right now the way we’re playing. It’s crazy that it’s taken this long to meet up again, but I think hopefully it will be worth the wait.”

The Pens held an optional morning skate at Verizon Center. Four players opted for the off-ice workout: Sidney Crosby; Patric Hornqvist; Phil Kessel; and Kris Letang.

The rest of the team participated, including center Evgeni Malkin and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

*Sullivan on starting on the road: “When you’re the away team you don’t have as much control over matchups. We’ll do our best to get the matchups that we think are preferable to our team, but we’re a coaching staff that believes in letting our players play. We have four lines that can play against anybody.”

Sullivan on Crosby-Ovechkin matchup: “The greatest thing about our game is that it’s a team sport. It takes 20-something players to have success. There are elite players on both sides. They’re great players and bring a lot to their respective teams. From my standpoint, this is a team game and not one individual against another individual. It’s one team playing against another team.”

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