February 14th against Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena
Time: 3 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 106.7 FAN
Washington Capitals 6-3-3
Pittsburgh Penguins 6-5-1
After a week’s break and each of the last three scheduled games that have been postponed to a later point in the season, the Caps are finally getting back on the ice and seeing live action against the penguins in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Washington’s last game was a 7-4 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in District last Sunday, the third straight loss for the Caps. This game continued a series of games that messed up the capitals with a makeshift and ever-changing lineup and line-up that was the result of a flurry of injuries and a quartet of key players unavailable for an extended period of time due to the COVID protocol was.
Last Monday, the Caps learned they would not be playing any scheduled games in Buffalo on Thursday and Saturday of that week due to a COVID outbreak among the Sabers. Since Philadelphia was also inactive on Thursday and Saturday due to an infection among the players from New Jersey, it made sense to send the caps to Philly on these evenings to face the flyers. But on Tuesday morning, some COVID issues surfaced among Flyers who postponed the Flyers caps rematch in DC that night, questioning any notion of the two clubs playing in Philadelphia later that week.
Instead, the Caps had three days of training and one day off to prepare for their upcoming two-game set with the penguins in Pittsburgh. Washington certainly wasn’t looking for a week off or postponing three games for the future shoemaker into an already busy and curtailed schedule, but they knew such a hiatus was a realistic option at some point in this breakaway NHL season.
Given the Caps’ overall health at this point over the past week, the unexpected break may have occurred at an optimal time. The caps had a chance to rest and roll back and improve the conditioning and combat levels of some players who had been idle for a while.
“I think you can look at it both ways,” says Caps Center Nic Dowd. “Some guys would prefer to be thrown into the fire; and you get into game shape by playing. It’s no secret. You can practice all summer – like us – and then you come to camp and the guys are still complaining about it, like you getting dressed I don’t feel good yet because you haven’t played the game, I mean it’s the fear, the stress and the work is different, you just can’t emulate it.
“I think it gives guys a little more time to heal when they need to heal. And we’ve been playing a lot of games in a short amount of time and I think that will give the guys time to get their bodies back to neutral and I’ll do ready to go. But I think it all depends on the individual. I’d rather just keep playing myself. Yes, we lost three games in a row, but now we have to think about it [for a week]. “
Washington lacked forward Evgeny Kuznetsov, TJ Oshie and Jakub Vrana when it last played and center Lars Eller had just returned from an absence of four games. All these players and defenders Justin Schultz are expected to be in the lineup of the caps for the game on Sunday against the penguins.
“Under normal circumstances, after a loss, I think you’d want to play this fast again to save yourself,” said Eller. “Anyway, you have to move on pretty quickly mentally and I think everyone does.
“I think the next game we play in Pittsburgh should be cheered on not only because of our last three games but also because of the last event we went in there and hopefully learn from those lessons. So it won’t work just about that. ” The last three games, including before. It’s a big game. “
What Eller means is the previous visit to Caps in Pittsburgh last month. The caps make the leads disappear in each of these games, so the pens can collect two points in each competition while settling for just one.
In the second of those losses, the Caps lost a three-goal lead in the second, scoring three special team goals – including the first 3v5 goal they gave up since 2008 – en route to a 5-4 Loss of overtime.
“There were things we did in Pittsburgh that I liked and there were things we didn’t do,” says Caps coach Peter Laviolette of his team’s previous trip to the city. “I thought we’d be a little sloppy with our play with the puck, whether it was thrown in or turned into the middle of the ice. And the fact that we didn’t finish the game; we didn’t.” Don’t play the full 60 minutes and keep pressing. So there are things that we talk about and that we want to improve. “
Like most teams in the East Division, Pittsburgh has been affected by the outbreaks from the other clubs in their division ecosystem. The Pens had postponed a couple of home games against New Jersey earlier this month.
Since the penguins came from behind last month to play a few games from the capitals here in Pittsburgh, they have split eight games (4-3-1). Most recently they won another comeback victory against the Islanders on Thursday evening in New York, a 4-3 triumph in the shootout.
The pens entered the third period on Thursday with the islands, even 2-2 in the third period. Pittsburgh fell back to the left at 6:25 on Mathew Barzal’s unassisted goal, but rallied to force overtime on a goal from Evgeni Malkin in the waning seconds of regulation. Sidney Crosby won it for the pens in the skill competition.
Pittsburgh is in the middle of a 10-game section of the schedule with only two different opponents: Washington (four times) and the Islanders (six times). The pens are expected to make the first of their two visits to DC for gaming on February 23-25.
Since the Caps last visited Steel City just under a month ago, the pens have made headlines with the surprising and abrupt resignation of Jim Rutherford as general manager of the team and the subsequent hiring of former Philly GM Ron Hextall as his successor. The inimitable Brian Burke joins Hextall in the Pittsburgh front office. Burke will serve as President of Hockey Operations for the Penguins.