"Ovechkin is a great player, but every time he hits me -- I don't know why." - Evgeni Malkin
"What's so special about [Crosby]? I don't see anything special there." - Alexander Semin
"We'll stick up [for Malkin], like you would for any teammate..." - Sidney Crosby
Tonight's matchup between the Penguins and Capitals will likely be more than a routine meeting between the teams. While there is an incredible amount of back-story heading into this game thanks to Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, it also could be a turning point for both clubs.
The Capitals have dropped three games in a row now, a number that ties the season high for consecutive losses. Coming off a 5-2 loss to the Oilers, the Capitals need to bounce back from a poor effort where they reverted to bad habits. The Penguins on the other hand are in crisis. The reigning Eastern Conference champs currently sit in 10th place, out of the playoffs, and are 3-7 in their last 10. Pens fans are calling for the firing of Coach Micheal Therrien, and fans are growing restless with the team's under-performance.
Washington Capitals (27-14-3, first in SE, second in EC, last game 5-2 loss to Edmonton)
Pittsburgh Penguins (21-19-4, fourth in ATL, 10th in EC, last game 4-2 win over Philadelphia)
Players to watch
WSH: Nicklas Backstrom
He's the main pivot for the Capitals powerplay and, given their recent struggles, he will need to win offensive zone faceoffs if the Caps want to see success. Backstrom could be the sleeper here, with so much focus on Ovechkin and Semin; don't be suprised if you see Backstrom have a big day on the scoresheet.
PIT: Jordan Staal
Having just signed a four-year, $16-million contract, Staal will be looked upon to show why he deserves the pay raise. Staal's 24 points make him the fifth best on the Penguins and, like Backstrom, je might be ignored in light of all the Crosby and Malkin hoopla. Staal could be in line for a big night as well if the Capitals focus too much attention on the Penguins' dynamic duo.
The last meeting
The Hart trophy candidates in one game
Another story to keep an eye on is that the top three forwards in the NHL are all on the ice tonight. All three are staking a claim as to why they should be the NHL's MVP (Hart Trophy) winner. At the halfway mark, Alex Ovechkin is the predicted winner per the NHL.
Stat of the day
In the Penguins' last 10 games, they have only scored three power play goals on 42 chances. The Caps have given up eight powerplay goals on 38 shorthanded situations in their last 10 games.
Tale of the tape
In the highly unlikely event that some of the marquee players should face off in fights, here's who we think you should put your money on.
Semin vs. Crosby - Crosby is no stranger to a fight these days, but he is a stranger to a fair fight. Crosby is at his best when a teammate is holding an opponent down with his rear-end exposed or when jumping a player at the faceoff circle. Semin on the other hand is a wild-man whose slapping fits of rage can come at anytime. Considering that Semin plays wing, not center, Crosby will not be able to jump Semin at the faceoff circle. Advantage Semin
LET'S GO CAPS!