The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals will meet for the fifth time this season Tuesday night in D.C. The Pens won the first three matchups, including one overtime and one shootout win, while the Capitals took the fourth game last Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
Puck drop is at 7:00 P.M. Eastern on NBCSN. Washington is a home favorite at (-115) while the Penguins are underdogs at (+100).
Pittsburgh Penguins (9-6-1) Preview
Pittsburgh has struggled away from their home rink this season, posting a 2-5-1 road record. However, all but one of those losses came to a team equal or ahead of them in the standings. As for recent momentum, the Penguins have won four of five coming into Tuesday’s tilt.
At the quarter pole of the season, there are still a ton of questions surrounding the goaltending and defense units. While Tristan Jarry is still the clear starter, he’s been largely unimpressive with a 5-5-1 record, 3.30 GAA, and .892 save percentage. Casey DeSmith (4-1-0, 2.84 GAA, .885 save percentage) has been serviceable in spot-starts but both must improve if Pittsburgh hopes to return to the playoffs. Jarry is the expected starter Tuesday.
Unsurprisingly, Sidney Crosby (six goals, nine assists) is tied with Bryan Rust (also six goals, nine assists) for the team lead in points. Crosby played in his 1,000th career game Saturday night, recording a pair of assists including on the game winner in a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders.
Brian Dumoulin, Jared McCann, Evan Rodrigues, and Juuso Riikola are all unavailable for Tuesday’s game. However, head coach Mike Sullivan said McCann would rejoin the team during their current four-game road trip.
Washington Capitals (9-5-3) Preview
Washington’s season has been turbulent with COVID-19 issues. Most notably, goaltender Ilya Samsonov, who was expected to earn most of the starts in net, has been sidelined since a January 17 shootout loss against the Penguins. However, Samsonov was activated last week and is expected to start Tuesday night.
The Capitals have won three of their past four, most recently a 4-3 comeback victory over the New Jersey Devils. T.J. Oshie’s three points led the way; with four goals and eight assists this season, Oshie ranks fifth on the team in points. With six goals this season, Alexander Ovechkin has 712 career goals, just five behind Phil Esposito for sixth on the all-time scoring list.
With Samsonov returning to play, Brian Pinho (undisclosed) is the only player remaining on the injury report who is expected to return this season.
The red-hot Washington power play (33.3%) ranks second in the NHL. There is an excellent opportunity for the Caps to score against Pittsburgh’s 74% penalty kill, the sixth lowest PK unit league-wide.
The Pick Is In
It’s always an exciting hockey game when the Penguins play the Capitals. I don’t know how many more “Crosby vs. Ovechkin” games we’re going to get, so as a hockey fan, I’m going to enjoy as many of them as I can.
When in doubt, go with the home team. Take the Caps to win in Samsonov’s return and to narrow the gap behind Boston in a stacked East Division.
Spooky Express Free Pick: Washington Capitals (-115).