Washington Capitals (55-17-7, 117 points)
Pittsburgh Penguins (47-25-8, 102 points)
Puck drops at 7 p.m. at Verizon Center (TV: CSN)
This series never gets old. The word “Rivalry” is too nice to describe the clean, old-fashioned hate these two fan bases and teams possess. The Pens are a hot team while the Caps have cooled off since claiming the President’s Trophy last week.
Hitting Their Stride
Winners of their last seven and 13 of their last 14, the Pittsburgh Penguins come into Washington as the hottest team in the NHL. Head Coach Mike Sullivan took over part way through this season and should be the front runner for the Jack Adams Award. He has got the Penguins playing fantastic hockey even when Evgeny Malkin and their ace goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury go down to injury.
- Sidney Crosby is back to form with 35 goals and 49 assists. He led the comeback against Ottawa Tuesday night where he tallied two goals in their 5-3 win.
- Marc-Andre Fleury is listed as day-to-day with concussion symptoms. His status of returning is unknown.
- 21-year-old goaltender Matt Murray has been showing the Penguins why he wants to stay. He has won his last five starts (including a 5-0 gem over the Islanders) and is posting an 8-2-1 record, a 1.98 GAA and .930 save percentage. He will most likely start Thursday night.
Let the Eagle Soar
The Washington Capitals have been struggling as of late. They are coming off two straight losses to Arizona and the Islanders, of which they blew a two goal lead in the 3rd before losing in OT. But don’t let that fool you. This team is going to click into another gear come playoff time and Barry Trotz will make sure of it. Backstrom may return Thursday but if he’s still favoring the injury, Trotz may sit him out for a few more games.
- Alexander Ovechkin tallied two goals in the 4-3 loss to the Islanders. He sits at 47 with three games to go. He might just reach that 50 goal plateau.
- Braden Holtby sits at 47 wins, one shy of New Jersey Devil master netminder Martin Brodeur. With three games left, I see him playing Vs. Pittsburgh and either St. Louis or Anaheim. He won’t play all three. He’ll at least tie the record. Whether he breaks it depends on the Caps play and these teams left on their schedule are no push overs.
Final three games: Pittsburgh, @St. Louis and the home finale Vs. Anaheim.
ROCK THE RED! Go Caps!