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Capitals Game Day

Capitals vs. Penguins: Lines, Tale Of Tape, Players To Watch

The Washington Capitals have their “most important game of the year” against the Pittsburgh Penguins Thursday. Lines, tale of the tape and who to watch, along with everything else to know before puck drop.



WASHINGTON — Lars Eller stands by the fact that Thursday will be the "most important game of the year" for the Washington Capitals as they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in a rivalry game that is also worth more than just two points as the playoff race tightens.

Both Washington and Pittsburgh are tied in the standings and hold the two Wild Card spots in the East, with the Buffalo Sabres and more teams close behind. Garnet Hathaway hit the nail ont he head, saying it'll be a "four-point" showdown between the clubs.

Here is everything to know before puck drop.

Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: Tale of the Tape

The Capitals (25-19-6) are at .500 when it comes to just wins and losses (regulation + OT), and things have not been going as planned through January. Over the last two games, Washington is 4-6-0 and has dropped the last two decisions, though the game against the Colorado Avalanche was a strong effort where the Capitals were arguably the better team. Still, things are just not clicking across the board, as there have been some missed assignments, time stuck in the defensive zone, a lack of pressure on the forecheck and struggles on the power play. Washington is 1-for-21 over the last nine outings. Still, the penalty kill ranks seventh in the league (81.6).

Meanwhile, the Penguins (24-15-8) have had ups and downs this season and have split the last 10 games down the middle with five wins and five losses, with three of those coming in regulation. Tristan Jarry is also hurting and out of the mix through the All-Star break, but the team just got Kris Letang back and appear to be getting goals and more from their stars. The penalty kill is the ninth-best in the league (81.2), and the team averages the 10th-most goals per game (3.28). So, Thursday won't be easy.

Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: Lines

The Capitals will be getting Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie back after both missed Tuesday's tilt, as Backstrom had a non-COVID illness while Oshie was home in D.C. with his wife, Lauren, for the birth of their fourth child, Lucy. Tom Wilson, who was hurt last game, is out. Nic Dowd (lower-body) is still on the injured reserve. Aliaksei Protas and Alex Alexeyev are the healthy scratches.

Here are the lines:

Alex Ovechkin-Dylan Strome-T.J. Oshie

Conor Sheary-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Anthony Mantha

Sonny Milano-Nicklas Backstrom-Marcus Johansson

Nicolas Aube-Kubel-Lars Eller-Garnet Hathaway

Erik Gustafsson-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Dmitry Orlov-Nick Jensen

Matt Irwin-Martin Fehervary

Darcy Kuemper gets the start, while Charlie Lindgren is the backup.

Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: Players To Watch

Alex Ovechkin scored his 31st goal of the season on Tuesday, and Dylan Strome is currently on a four-game point streak with five points over that span. Marcus Johansson has points in two of his last three games, along with Evgeny Kuznetsov. Also keep an eye out for Conor Sheary, who ended a lengthy goal drought back on Tuesday.

On the Pittsburgh side, Sidney Crosby has been red-hot. The captain has points in five straight games — two of those five were three-point outings — and he leads his team with 54 points through 47 games. Jake Guentzel has points in three straight, and Evgeni Malkin is producing at a point-per-game pace and also has eight points in his last five contests. Not only that, but look out for Letang, too.

How To Tune In

Local fans can catch the action live on NBC Sports Washington Plus and tune in at WJFK 106.7 The Fan and Caps Radio 24/7. Penguins fans back in Pennsylvania can watch on AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh.

Puck drop is at 7 p.m. ET at Capital One Arena.

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