Sunday, February 18, 2007

Caps/Penguins Preview

Washington Capitals (23-26-9, 55 points)
Pittsburgh Penguins (31-17-9, 71 points)

Television: NBC
Radio: Sportstalk 980-AM
Gametime: 3:30 PM ET

Following the Florida Panthers unlikely win over the division leading Tampa Bay Lightning last night, the Capitals find themselves in sole possession of last place in the Southeast Division and 14th place in the Eastern Conference, heading into today's game against their hated rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Once again the Caps will face one of the hottest teams in the NHL as the Penguins are 13-0-2 in their last 15 games and have not lost in regulation since January 10th at Florida. This comes on the hands of a nice performance against a red hot Tampa team who entered Thursday night's contest with a 13-3-1 record in their last 17 games.

The Penguins have won both of the previous meetings this season including a nationally televised game at the Verizon Center on Versus back on December 11. In that game the Caps jumped out to a 4-0 lead before falling in a shootout 5-4 thanks to an outstanding performance by Evgeni Malkin. In the second meeting the Caps were shutout by Pittsburgh at the Mellon Arena on Febuary 3rd with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury's 30 saves stealing the show.

The Capitals are finally healthy on their blue line for the first time in a long while, as the return of Brian Pothier and John Erskine to go along with the outstanding play of Milan Jurcina and Shaone Morrisonn, should provide an outstanding challenge to Pittsburgh's outstanding young forwards. If they can build on the solid outing they had in Tampa, shutting down Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier for the majority of the game, the Caps will have a shot at pulling the upset.

If that is to happen though they are going to need help from their two young superstars in Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin. Both players have been slumping as of late, after averaging over a point per game for the season, they have combined for just 4 points (2 goals and 2 assists) over their last 6 games.

The Caps desperately need a two point result in this game as they are now 11 points behind the eighth place Toronto Maple Leafs for the final playoff spot.

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