GAME 50 PREVIEW: Rivalry Renewed

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, January 21, 2010 | , , | 0 comments »

Washington Capitals (31-12-6-68, 1st in Southeast)
Pittsburgh Penguins (31-19-1-63, 2nd in Atlantic)

Mellon Arena, 7:30 pm EST

The Capitals travel to western PA to face the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first of four regular season contests this season, all coming past the midway point of the season.

This is also the first encounter between the two teams since Game 7 of last year's second round matchup, when the Pens unceremoniously dumped the Caps at Verizon Center, 6-2.

For all the import placed on these regular season clashes, last year's record didn't mean much come playoff time.  "We were 3-0-1 against them last year and it didn't mean a hill of beans," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said.

And while the disappointment of Game 7 blowout lingered (it was Washington's seventh loss out of eight playoff series with Pittsburgh) for players and fans alike throughout the off-season, the reality is that at this point, it doesn't mean a hill of beans either.

There are new challenges ahead, and while the Penguins will always be a barometer to which the Caps will be upheld, both of these teams are looking ahead to the coming playoffs, not looking behind them.

Both teams come into this one on a bit of a roll.  The Caps have won four straight and seven of their last eight, while Pittsburgh are winners of three out of four, including a 6-4 victory Tuesday night.  Sidney Crosby had a hand in all six Penguins' goals, and Evgeni Malkin scored a hat trick.

But Pittsburgh may be without starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who is nursing a broken finger.  If he can't go, former Cap Brent Johnson will be between the pipes.

Washington recalled D John Carlson this morning, and it was unclear as of this post who's spot he would take on the roster.  John Erskine and Brian Pothier are still both out, keeping Tyler Sloan in the lineup, but Mike Green missed practice yesterday, termed a "maintenance day" by Boudreau.

Jose Theodore, coming of a sparkling 44 save effort in a 3-2 win over Detroit Tuesday, should get the nod for D.C.