Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner, right, tangles with Sidney Crosby during the Penguins' 7-1 loss to the Capitals Nov. 16
By Sam Werner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
WASHINGTON — Over the past several years — including in last season’s playoffs — the Penguins have enjoyed plenty of success in the Verizon Center.
But their last trip here wasn’t exactly one for the scrapbook.
The Penguins lost 7-1 here Nov. 16, tied for their worst defeat of this otherwise so-far successful season. They will (obviously) hope to earn a better result tonight.
“I think we kind of have to wipe that one clean,” winger ConorSheary said. “It was just one of those games where we didn't really have it and they did. They obviously put up seven on us, so they played pretty well. I think coming into tonight, we just want to make sure we have a good start, make sure in a road building we just kind of try to take their momentum away from them.”
Coach MikeSullivan said the Penguins looked at some aspects of that game, also the last time his team faced the Capitals this season, but didn’t think there was too much to garner from a game that ended up so lopsided.
“We’re not going to overthink that,” Sullivan said. “We know our team is a better team than that, but we just want to make sure that we respond the right way.”
From the Penguins’ skate
- Optional skate for the Penguins this morning. The players absent were SidneyCrosby, PhilKessel, MattCullen and ChadRuhwedel. Sullivan said all of them will be ready to go tonight (presumably with the exception of Ruhwedel, who Sullivan said yesterday would require a few more days to get over his illness.
- No line rushes from the optional skate, but Sullivan did confirm it’ll be Marc-Andre Fleury in goal tonight. The Penguins sent TristanJarry down to AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this morning, so MattMurray will serve as the backup tonight. Sullivan said that “from a health standpoint” Murray is able to play, so it’s worth watching to see whether or not he gets the nod tomorrow night in Ottawa on the second night of the Penguins’ back to back.
- In the corresponding move with Jarry’s reassignment, the Penguins called up defenseman David Warsofsky from WBS. Warsofsky played in four games for the Penguins earlier this season, and has been on fire in the AHL recently. He scored two goals and five assists this week, earning the league’s Player of the Week award.
“He’s a good player and I think his game has come a long way since he was here last,” Sullivan said. “When I say that I mean, when he was here playing last. That’s great for us. I think it’s an indication of the depth we have at that position.”
- Braden Holtby will be in net for the Capitals tonight. He has given up one goal in his last three games, stopping 81 of the last 82 shots he has faced.
“Just get in front,” Penguins winger and former Capital Eric Fehr said. “He's a really big guy and he does a pretty good job of looking around traffic, he battles hard for position. I think that's one of the things that makes him really effective. If we get a couple of guys there and try to create a little bit of chaos around him, I think it makes it a lot more difficult.
Player to watch
Conor Sheary enters tonight on a four-game scoring streak, so let’s see if he can keep that going in a big divisional game. The Sheary/Crosby pairing is nothing new, but he said adding Bryan Rust to that top line has given them a boost in the last couple of games as well.
“I think first few games it's kind of a feeling out a little bit and you kind of read off each other,” Sheary said. “I've been playing with Sid for a bit, but adding Rust to the line adds a lot of speed and a lot of grit. It's mixed pretty well for us so far and hopefully we can keep going tonight.
Sheary is already sitting at a career-high 10 goals on the season, and is on pace to finish with 23 on the year.
“Obviously it's an important year for myself so I want to make sure I'm doing my best, but at the end of the day, I think team success can make your success better individually,” Sheary said. “We'll worry about that tonight.”
Numbers of note
91.2 percent: Penguins’ penalty-killing rate over the last 10 games
3-3-2: Penguins’ record in the first leg of back-to-backs this season
89: Consecutive regular-season games for the Penguins without back-to-back regulation losses
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