Washington (31-12-6) @ Pittsburgh (31-19-1)
****Capitals/Penguins pre-game news and notes***
*Tonight’s highly anticipated game between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins is being covered like a playoff game. Hockey Reporters from all over North America are in the building today. The request for credentials was at a “Conference Finals” level I’m told.
*As expected wingers Max Talbot and Pascal Dupuis will not play tonight. Talbot tested his injured foot for about 10 minutes before the Penguins morning skate and has been ruled out of tonight’s game. Dupuis will be sidelined with facial injuries as the Penguins wait for test results. His eye is still swollen to the point where there is no chance that he would have been able to play tonight.
Sergei Gonchar (foot) missed practice on Wednesday but will be in the lineup tonight. This morning Pittsburgh went with their normal pairings of Brooks Orpik – Sergei Gonchar, Mark Eaton-Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski-JayMcKee.
*Marc Andre Fleury will not dress for the third straight game. Fleury participated briefly in the Penguins morning skate. John Curry will backup Brent Johnson who will face his former team for the first time.
Winger Nick Johnson will make his season and NHL debut tonight, while Dustin Jeffrey will also make his season debut.
Based on the morning skate, Johnson could play a pivotal role tonight on one of the top two lines.
Johnson began the morning skate on Evgeni Malkin’s line alongside Ruslan Fedotenko and also took a few line rushes on right wing with Sidney Crosby and Bill Guerin.
For the most part, Crosby centered Tyler Kennedy and Bill Guerin but it appears Bylsma is just experimenting with line combinations tonight.
Bylsma has used Kennedy with Malkin or Crosby in practice, then when it comes to the games, goes right back with the Cooke-Staal-Kennedy unit. For now I wouldn’t look too much into Tyler Kennedy being on the top line but there are indications that Johnson will get the first shot on Malkin’s line tonight.
Dustin Jeffrey will be on the 4th line tonight. Despite his production at the AHL player, he is regarded as a 3rd/4th line role player at the NHL level.
*Pittsburgh finished the final 10 minutes of the skate on the power play.
*Forward lines (To Be Determined)
Rupp/Kennedy – Crosby – Guerin
Fedotenko – Malkin – Johnson
Cooke – Staal – Kennedy/Rupp
Jeffrey – Adams – Godard
Orpik – Gonchar
Eaton – Letang
McKee – Goligoski
*Brent Johnson will start in goal
Scratches: Martin Skoula, Max Talbot, Marc Andre Fleury, Pascal Dupuis