February 14 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Area
Time: 3 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 106.7 FAN
Washington Capitals 6-3-3
Pittsburgh Penguins 6-5-1
After every week of getting their season paused and every of their final three scheduled video games postponed till later within the season, the Caps lastly return to the ice and to stay motion on Sunday in Pittsburgh in opposition to the Penguins.
Washington’s most up-to-date recreation was a 7-4 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in District final Sunday, the Caps’ third straight loss. That recreation continued a string of video games by which the Capitals muddled by with a makeshift and always altering roster and lineup, the results of a spate of accidents and having a quartet of key gamers unavailable for an prolonged time period due to COVID protocol.
Final Monday, the Caps discovered that they might not be taking part in scheduled video games in Buffalo on Thursday and Saturday this week due to a COVID outbreak among the many Sabres. With Philadelphia additionally sitting idle on Thursday and Saturday due to an an infection amongst New Jersey gamers, it made some sense to ship the Caps to Philly to face the Flyers on these nights as a substitute. However on Tuesday morning, some COVID points among the many Flyers sprang up, suspending that evening’s Flyers-Caps rematch in D.C., and scotching any thought of the 2 golf equipment taking part in later within the week in Philadelphia.
As an alternative, the Caps had a trio of observe days and an off day in preparation for his or her upcoming two-game set with the Penguins in Pittsburgh. Washington definitely wasn’t on the lookout for every week off or to have three video games postponed for future shoehorning into an already busy and condensed scheduled, however they knew that such a pause was a sensible chance in some unspecified time in the future on this outlier of an NHL season.
Given the Caps’ general state of well being at the moment final week, the sudden pause might have come at an optimum time. The Caps had an opportunity to relaxation and reset and to ramp up the conditioning and battle ranges of some gamers who had been idling for some time.
“I believe you’ll be able to take a look at it each methods,” says Caps middle Nic Dowd. “Some guys would moderately be thrown into the hearth; and also you get into recreation form by taking part in video games. That is no secret. You may observe all summer season – like we do – and then you definitely come into camp and guys are nonetheless complaining about how you do not really feel good but as a result of you have not performed the sport. I imply, it is the anxiousness, the stress and the work is totally different; you simply cannot emulate it.
“I believe it provides guys just a little bit extra time to heal if guys have to heal. And we did play loads of video games in a brief time period, and I believe that’ll give guys time to get their physique again to impartial and prepare to go. However I believe it is simply all primarily based on particular person. Myself, I might moderately simply hold taking part in. Yeah, we misplaced three video games in a row, however now we obtained to consider it [for a week].”
Washington was lacking forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Jakub Vrana when it performed most just lately, and middle Lars Eller had simply returned from a four-game absence. All these gamers and defenseman Justin Schultz are anticipated to be again within the Caps’ lineup for Sunday’s recreation in opposition to the Penguins.
“Beneath regular circumstances, you’d wish to play as rapidly once more after a loss I believe, to redeem your self,” says Eller. “However regardless, it’s important to transfer on mentally fairly rapidly and I believe all people is doing that.
“I believe subsequent recreation we play in Pittsburgh, we needs to be fired up not simply because we misplaced our final three video games, however due to what occurred final time we went in there, and hopefully be taught from these classes. So it is not simply in regards to the final three video games; it is stuff previous to that, too. It is a massive recreation.”
What Eller is referring to is the Caps’ earlier go to to Pittsburgh final month. The Caps let leads slip away in every of these video games, allowing the Pens to choose up a pair of factors in every contest whereas settling for only one themselves.
Within the second of these losses, the Caps misplaced maintain of a three-goal lead within the second, yielding three particular groups targets – together with the primary 3-on-5 objective in opposition to they’ve surrendered since 2008 – en path to a 5-4 extra time loss.
“There have been issues that we did in Pittsburgh that I favored, and there have been issues that we did not do,” says Caps coach Peter Laviolette, of his workforce’s earlier journey to city. “I believed we have been just a little bit careless with our recreation at occasions with the puck, whether or not it’s dumping it in or turning it over into the center of the ice. And the truth that we did not full the sport; we did not play the total 60 minutes and press on. So there are issues that we’ll discuss and look to get higher at.”
Like most groups within the East Division, Pittsburgh has been impacted by the outbreaks suffered by the opposite golf equipment of their divisional ecosystem; the Pens had a pair of dwelling video games in opposition to New Jersey postponed earlier within the month.
Since coming from behind to take a pair of video games from the Capitals right here in Pittsburgh final month, the Penguins have cut up eight video games (4-3-1). Most just lately, they’re coming off one other comeback victory over the Islanders in New York on Thursday evening, a 4-3 shootout triumph.
The Pens entered the third interval of Thursday’s recreation with the Isles all even at 2-2 heading into the third interval. Pittsburgh fell behind on Mathew Barzal’s unassisted objective with 6:25 left however rallied to pressure extra time on an Evgeni Malkin objective within the waning seconds of regulation. Sidney Crosby received it for the Pens within the abilities competitors.
Pittsburgh is within the midst of a 10-game stretch of the schedule by which it faces solely two totally different opponents: Washington (4 occasions) and the Islanders (six). The Pens are slated to make the primary of their two visits to D.C. for video games on Feb. 23 and 25.
Because the Caps final visited the Metal Metropolis slightly below a month in the past, the Pens have made loads of hockey headlines with the stunning and abrupt resignation of Jim Rutherford because the workforce’s normal supervisor, and the following hiring of former Philly GM Ron Hextall as his successor. The inimitable Brian Burke joins Hextall within the Pittsburgh entrance workplace; Burke will function president of hockey operations for the Penguins.