CAPITALS (22-16-8, 52 pts) @ PENGUINS (33-12-2, 68 pts)
MORNING SKATE NOTES
— Brandon Sutter will skate on right wing for the first time this season. With the Penguins out of options for players to skate on Crosby’s wing, Sutter will play alongside Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz on the top line.
— James Neal skated on the second line with Jussi Jokinen and Evgeni Malkin, and also took the majority of first unit power play reps. Neal has been dealing with an upper body injury and did not practice on Monday or Tuesday. Neal, though, is likely to be looked at as a game time decision tonight. He looks to be bothered by something when shooting the puck.
— All signs point to Simon Despres being a healthy scratch again tonight.
— Marc Andre Fleury will start in goal.
LINES AND D-PAIRS AT MORNING SKATE
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Brandon Sutter
Jussi Jokinen – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal
Taylor Pyatt – Zach Sill – Craig Adams
Tanner Glass – Nick Drazenovic – Deryk Engelland
The Defensive pairs for tonight’s game will be:
Brooks Orpik – Robert Bortuzzo
Rob Scuderi – Kris Letang
Olli Maatta – Matt Niskanen
SAME CONCERNS STILL OUT THERE FOR THE CAPITALS
No one including the Capitals in the Metropolitan Division have emerged as teams who will be of any competition to the Penguins for the division title. Prior to the season, Washington was looked at along with the Rangers as teams in the division that would be the Penguins toughest competition for the division.
As we’re nearing the 50 game mark, Philadelphia might be the second best team in the division and the Penguins could move 18 points ahead of the Capitals with a win tonight. Even in the weak Metropolitan Division, the Capitals are a middle of the road team that will be fighting for a playoff spot the rest of the way.
Issues that been there for years during the Alexander Ovechkin era remain with this hockey club. And you can’t fault Ovechkin for these.
The Capitals are giving up 34.09 shots per game, while giving up 2.85 goals per game. Goaltending and the lack of a shutdown defenseman continue to limit this club from getting back to being a Cup contender in the East.
Braden Holtby remains wildly inconsistent with a 3.08 GAA and .910 save percentage. Youngster Philipp Grubauer has emerged onto the scene with a 2.06 GAA and .936 save percentage in 14 games but he’s as unproven as it gets.
NHL sources feel the Capitals should be all over Ryan Miller going into the trade deadline and some have even thrown out Martin Brodeur’s name as the perfect stop-gap fit for a post-season run and possibly change the culture of this hockey club.