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Penguins preview: 1/15 vs. Capitals

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After a short break following their Western Canada road trip, the Pittsburgh Penguins are back in action tonight looking for their thirteenth straight victory at home. Their opponents, the Washington Capitals, sit tied for second place in the Metropolitan Division, but have lost their last two games in overtime with the latest defeat coming on Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks.

When and where: Consol Energy Center (Pittsburgh, PA); 8:00 pm/et (NBC Sports Network, TSN2, RDS)

Records: Penguins (33-12-2, 68 pts.); Capitals (22-16-8, 52 pts.)

Season series: Penguins lead 1-0

Last meeting: The latest chapter in the Penguins/Capitals rivalry took place on November 20th in the Nation’s capital. Even though they were at home, the Capitals didn’t show up as they were shutout by Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins, 4-0. Pittsburgh got goals from Paul Martin, Beau Bennett, Sidney Crosby, and James Neal in the victory. Fleury only had to stop eighteen shots for his second shutout of the year.

Who to keep an eye on:

1. Nicklas Backstrom & Alex Ovechkin: The top two point men on the Capitals sit ninth and tenth respectively in the NHL in points. Ovechkin is the goal-man with thirty-three (tops in the league), and Backstrom is the assist-man with thirty-seven.

2. Brandon Sutter: Usually the third-line center, Sutter will at least start the game on the top-line with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. If it sticks, it will be the first time in Sutter’s NHL career that he played anywhere but center. The last time Sutter played wing was in his second year with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League (WHL).

Ex-Penguin alert: None

Injuries:

Penguins: G Tomas Vokoun (blood clot), D Paul Martin (broken tibia), RW Beau Bennett (wrist/hand), C Andrew Ebbett (broken ankle), C Jayson Megna (lower body), RW Pascal Dupuis (knee), RW Chris Conner (hand), RW Chuck Kobasew (lower body), LW James Neal (upper body), C Brian Gibbons (lower body), C Joe Vitale (wrist)

Capitals: D Jack Hillen (tibia)

Additional notes:

-Martin Erat hasn’t appeared in a game for the Capitals since the fourth of the month. He really wants out of D.C.

-Out of the fourteen assists Alex Ovechkin has on the season, only three has coming at even strength.

-Even though he is nursing an upper body injury and has missed the last two days of practice, James Neal did take part in the morning skate earlier today.

-In case Neal can’t go, the Penguins recalled Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

-Nick Drazenovic will be making his Penguins debut tonight. In twenty-six games with Wilkes-Barre, Drazenovic had seven goals and thirteen assists.

-Rivalry night!!!

Projected lines:

Penguins (via penguins.nhl.com)

14 Chris Kunitz-87 Sidney Crosby (C)-16 Brandon Sutter

36 Jussi Jokinen-71 Evgeni Malkin (A)-18 James Neal

15 Tanner Glass-40 Nick Drazenovic-27 Craig Adams

17 Taylor Pyatt-38 Zach Sill-5 Deryk Engelland

44 Brooks Orpik (A)-41 Robert Bortuzzo

4 Rob Scuderi-58 Kris Letang

3 Olli Maatta-2 Matt Niskanen

29 Marc-Andre Fleury (26-10-1, .918 save %, 2.24 GAA, 3 SO)

Capitals (via dailyfaceoff.com)

16 Eric Fehr-84 Mikhail Grabovski-8 Alex Ovechkin (C)

21 Brooks Laich (A)-19 Nicklas Backstrom (A)-20 Troy Brouwer

25 Jason Chimera-90 Marcus Johansson-42 Joel Ward

24 Aaron Volpatti-83 Jay Beagle-43 Tom Wilson

27 Karl Alzner-74 John Carlson

81 Dmitry Orlov-52 Mike Green

4 John Erskine-58 Connor Carrick

30 Michal Neuvirth (3-3-1, .916 save %, 2.72 GAA, 0 SO)

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