WASHINGTON — This is precisely the kind of game in which Rob Scuderi is most valuable, why the Penguins made it a priority to sign him as a free agent in the summer.
Take on an opponent with quick-strike offensive capability and a lethal power play, and Scuderi is a good guy to have on hand for damage-control.
But Scuderi was able to offer nothing more than long-distance moral support when the Penguins faced Washington Wednesday night at Verizon Center because he continues to recover from surgery to repair an ankle fractured in a 4-1 loss Oct. 25 in Toronto.
And he doesn’t figure to be back in the lineup for at least several more weeks.
“His rehab is still off the ice, and not in a high-impact way,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “We’re just [past] the three-week mark of six-to-eight weeks [of projected recovery time].”
Injuries forced Washington to get by without a couple of its regular defenseman, as well.
Mike Green missed his third consecutive game and John Erskine his 11th.
Green had been a candidate to play against the Penguins, but coach Adam Oates told reporters after Washington’s game-day skate that he would be held out as a precaution.
“[Pittsburgh is a] really good team,” Oates said. “And I don’t want to put him in a position where he’s behind the 8-ball a little bit.”
The other keys
When the Penguins and Capitals collide, much of the attention tends to focus on respective big-name, high-end talents.
Guys such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins, and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
Each team has several other guys capable of being a difference-maker, though, and the other side would be foolish to ignore them.
That’s why it’s seems safe to assume that the Capitals spent some time before the game discussing guys such as Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz, and that Capitals winger Jason Chimera’s name came up once or twice while the Penguins were preparing.
Chimera is large (6 feet 3, 213 pounds) and fast, and entered the game tied for fifth in Washington’s scoring race with five goals and nine assists in 21 games, and tied for third in hits with 43.
“He and [Capitals center] Brooks Laich have pretty similar roles, in terms of the value they bring to their team and what they mean to their team,” Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “They’re more skilled than people think they are, but they’re also guys who are really consistent.
“You know what they’re bringing every night, in terms of consistency and physical play and penalty-killing. They do a lot of the dirty [work] that other guys aren’t willing to do.”
Washington went into the game with six consecutive victories at home, where the crowd is among the most raucous in the league.
Especially, it seems, when the Penguins are in town.
“This building ranks, probably, in the top three, for sure, and maybe second,” Bylsma said. “This is one [where] you know you’re going to deal with the crowd and the energy in the building.
“You’re going to hear the ‘Rock The Red.’ It’s coming, at some point in time. … It’s a formidable place to play.”
Crosby didn’t argue the point.
“It gets loud, and they’ve got a lot of guys who can score,” he said. “They get the crowd into it [by] scoring goals, create a lot of energy that way.
“They’ve really done a good job of maintaining that home-ice advantage.”
The Penguins scratched forwards Matt D’Agostini and Zach Sill and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. … Bylsma said he did not have an update on goalie Tomas Vokoun, who is being treated for blood clots.
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