February 7 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins at Verizon Center
Time: 12:00 pm TV: NBC Radio: 820AM, 1500AM and XM Pre-Game: Two-Man Advantage Pre-Game Show at 11:15 on www.washingtoncaps.com
Pittsburgh Penguins (35-22-1)
Washington Capitals (40-12-6)
Seventeen days after Washington skated off with a 6-3 win in the first meeting of the season between the Caps and Pens in Pittsburgh, the two old Patrick Division rivals will renew acquaintances at Verizon Center. The Capitals will be seeking to extend their franchise-record winning streak to 14 games.
Washington’s 13-game run matches the third-longest in league history. The last team to author a longer streak was the Penguins, who set the NHL mark with 17 straight wins in 1992-93. In addition to the 1992-93 Penguins, only the 1981-82 New York Islanders (15 games) and the 1929-30 Boston Bruins (14) have had longer winning streaks than this season’s Capitals club.
Besides seeking to add to its overall winning streak, Washington will be looking to set a home-ice winning streak when the Pens visit Verizon Center on Sunday. The Capitals are seeking their 11th straight win on District ice. Friday’s 5-2 win over Atlanta matched the franchise record of 10, established in 1999-00.
During Washington’s 13-game winning streak, it has outscored opponents by a 62-29 margin. It has scored at least one third-period goal in every game, and has outscored foes by an overwhelming 28-6 in the final frame of those contests.
Although rookie netminder Michal Neuvirth defeated the Thrashers on Friday for his fourth win during the streak and his ninth of the season, veteran Jose Theodore has carried the mail for the Caps during the bulk of the streak. Theodore has a personal-best nine-game winning streak, one shy of the Washington franchise mark established by Pat Riggin in 1983-84.
Theodore is 9-0 (obviously) with a 2.30 GAA and a .934 save pct. during the course of his nine-game winning streak. Theodore and Neuvirth have combined for a 2.22 GAA and a .936 save pct. during the team’s 13-game streak.
Offensively, everyone has chipped in. Eighteen different players have ignited the red lamp in the last 18 games. Washington skaters have a 14.9% shooting pct. in the last 13 games, which translates to an .851 save pct. for opposing netminders.
Despite missing eight games this season, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin leads the NHL in scoring (82 points), goals (39) and plus/minus (plus-38). He has 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) during the streak.
Nicklas Backstrom has jumped into the top five in the NHL’s scoring race with his hot spell during the streak. The 22-year-old Caps center has totaled 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in his last 13 games.
Veteran power forward Mike Knuble has been a one-man wrecking crew around opposition nets of late. On Thursday in New York, he scored his 20th goal of the season, reaching that coveted plateau for the seventh consecutive season. He joins Calgary’s Jarome Iginla and New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk as the only three players to achieve that feat, although others could follow. Knuble has 10 goals and 15 points during Washington’s record run.
Tomas Fleischmann moved from left wing to center just prior to the start of the streak. He has two goals and a dozen points during the streak.
Defenseman Tom Poti has two goals and six points and is plus-12 during the streak. He has played 20 more minutes in each of Washington’s last 13 games.
Washington has scored at least one power play goal in 11 of the 13 games. The Capitals’ power play is humming along at a 31.4% success rate during the life of the streak. The Caps have killed off 81.4% of the opposition’s manpower advantage opportunities in the team’s last 13 games.
Pittsburgh suffered a 5-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday afternoon. The Pens mustered just 21 shots on goal against the Habs, matching their single-game season low. Marc-Andre Fleury started for Pittsburgh, but he was pulled just over seven minutes into the third period after allowing the goal that put the Pens down 4-2. Ex-Cap Brent Johnson finished up, stopping three of the four shots he faced.
After that game, the Pens flew to Newark, N.J. and then hopped a bus for the rest of the journey to the District.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins are 10-12 in their last 22 games, but they have won four of their last six. Pittsburgh is second in the NHL’s Atlantic Division, three points behind New Jersey and a dozen in front of third-place Philadelphia.
With an average of 3.03 goals per game, the Penguins’ offense ranks fifth in the NHL this season. Pittsburgh has allowed 2.86 goals per game to rank 21st in the NHL defensively. None of the teams beneath the Pens in the goals against per game standings are currently among the top eight teams in either conference.
Evgeni Malkin, last season’s Art Ross Trophy winner as the league’s leading scorer, ranks 15th on the league’s scoring charts this season with 59 points. Sidney Crosby is Pittsburgh’s leading scorer with 72 points. He ranks third in the NHL in scoring and is also third with 37 goals.
Pittsburgh is 11th in the league in penalty killing (82.9%) but ranks 28th in the circuit in power play prowess (16.1%).
Notes: The Penguins are 10-1 in overtime games (7-0 in the shootout) this season. The Capitals are 6-6 (4-2 in the shootout) … Washington is 32-8-5 against Eastern Conference opponents this season and Pittsburgh is 27-16 against its fellow Eastern denizens.