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Penguins vs. Capitals Preview: Alex Ovechkin, MIA vs. Sidney Crosby, MVP.

The Penguins start 2024 vs. their familiar rival but with a stunning twist thrown into the saga of the team's two icons. Our predictions, stats, lines, odds, & watch info as Washington (17-11-6) visits Pittsburgh (18-13-4).


Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin
Photo by Getty Images, Graphics by Pens Report.

Alexander Ovechkin the only peer who can claim the "generational star" status of Sidney Crosby's peak is slumping mightily as he chases Wayne Gretzky's most NHL goals record. Ovechkin only has seven goals thus far this season at three whole months in. It's an unprecedently low mark for "Ovi" and is the background that sets the stage for tonight's meeting. Meanwhile, Sidney Crosby continues to age in elite form. He cracked 20 goals on the season just two games ago for his 16th career 20-goal campaign. Crosby is not missing a beat as he hits his late thirties. It's a stunning contrast against his former only rival in Ovechkin. Sidney Crosby could challenge for MVP given his status carrying the Penguins almost single-handedly at times, while Ovechkin is MIA.


On Ovechkin's struggles, you'll notice tonight that he mans both of Washington's powerplay units and is still snakebitten.


Penguins net duo of Tristan Jarry and Alex Nedeljkovic have been tremendous in the past few games and the results back that appearance. Both of them made the top 20 goaltenders in MoneyPuck's top goalies going into 2024 list. Only three other teams' tandems made the top 20 list.


After the last game, young call-up Valterri Puustinen now has six points in nine games as he set-up one of Lars Eller's goals against the Islanders. Puustinen has more points than Eller, the full-season participant does. He has earned himself a place in the lines when the Penguins return to full health.


John Ludvig had a night to forget on New Year's Eve. Losing a brawl he instigated with New York's heavyweight Matt Martin soundly and then making a critical gaff to allow the lone Islanders goal. Why is he playing over P.O. Joseph again? It seems to be because he fights and hits, but that's not enough when he's making such costly mistakes.


Depth scoring is coming up big suddenly. Every goal vs. the Islanders came from the Penguins' bottom six. Two of the four goals against St. Louis did as well. Three games ago against the Islanders also featured two goals from the third & fourth lines in the Pens' seven goal victory. The trend of Pittsburgh's struggle with depth contributions might finally turn the corner.


RECORDS:

Overall: Penguins- 18-13-4, Capitals- 17-11-6.

Home vs. Away: Penguins Home- 10-6-1, Capitals Away- 8-7-2.

Last 5 Games: Penguins- 4-1, Capitals- 1-4.

Last 10 Games: Penguins- 7-2-1, Capitals- 4-3-3.

Streak: Penguins- 3 Wins, Capitals- 4 Losses.

Division Standing: Penguins- 7th (Metro), Capitals- 5th (Metro).

Conference Standing: Penguins- 11th (East), Capitals- 9th (East).


PENGUINS LINES:


Lines via www.dailyfaceoff.com
Lines via www.dailyfaceoff.com



SPECIAL TEAMS:

PP#1: Rakell/Crosby/Guentzel/Malkin/Karlsson

PP#2: Carter/Eller/Puustinen/Smith/Letang

PK#1: Acciari/Smith/Pettersson/Letang

PK#2: Eller/O'Connor/Ruhwedel/Graves


INJURED LIST:

  • P.O. Joseph (D): illness, day-to-day

  • Matt Nieto (F): lower body, day-to-day (IR).

  • Jesse Puljujarvi (F, PTO): hip, out indefinitely.

  • Bryan Rust (F): upper-body, day-to-day (LTIR).

  • Radim Zohorna (F): illness, day-to-day.


CAPITALS LINES:



Lines via www.dailyfaceoff.com
Lines via www.dailyfaceoff.com


SPECIAL TEAMS:

PP#1: Wilson/Strome/Mantha/Ovechkin/Carlson

PP#2: Protas/Kuznetsov/McMichael/Ovechkin/Sandin

PK#1: Dowd/Malenstyn/Carlson/Jensen

PK#2: Kuznetsov/Wilson/Edmundson/van Riemsdyk


INJURED LIST:

  • Nicklas Backstrom (F): hip, out indefinitely (LTIR).

  • Martin Ferhervary (D): upper-body injury, day-to-day.

  • Charlie Lindgren (G): upper-body injury, day-to-day.

  • Sonny Milano (F): upper-body injury, week-to-week (IR).

  • T.J. Oshie (F): lower-body injury, week-to-week (IR).

  • Max Pacioretty (F): Achilles, day-to-day (LTIR).


SEASON SERIES:

Pens lead 1-0 after a 4-0 win vs. Washington on October 13th. The goals came from Reilly Smith, Evgeni Malkin, and Sidney Crosby who continued to perform well against his career-long benchmark opponent with two goals.


TEAM LEADERS:

Penguins Points Leaders:

  1. Jake Guentzel- 40

  2. Sidney Crosby- 36

  3. Evgeni Malkin- 31

  4. Erik Karlsson- 23

  5. Kris Letang- 23

Capitals Points Leaders:

  1. Alex Ovechkin- 21

  2. Dylan Strome- 21

  3. John Carlson- 19

  4. Tom Wilson- 18

  5. Aliaksei Protas- 18


BROADCAST INFO:

  • TV: ESPN+/Hulu Exclusive streaming game in the US.

  • Canadian: TVAS, Sportsnet East, Sportsnet Ontario

  • Pittsburgh Radio: 105.9 The X/Penguins Radio Network

  • Washington Radio: WJFK 106.7 FM/Caps Radio 24/7

WHO TO BET:

For The Win: Pittsburgh is on a three-game hot streak with scoring coming from all over the roster and is getting terrific goaltending. They're now 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and on a 3-game winning streak. Washington is 4-3-3 in their last 10 and is currently on a 4-game losing skid. Goalie Darcy Kuemper is only at .500 with a 3.16 goals-against average. Their best offensive generators of late are deeper players like Anthony Mantha & Nicholas Aube-Kubel. That's all while the Caps come in second to last in the league in goals for per game. Pick the Pens to get their fourth win in a row.


For Big Performances:

Kris Letang: Letang has nine points in his last five games, including a record-breaking six assists in one night three games ago. Few players in the league are as hot as "Tanger" right now.


Anthony Mantha: Mantha is one of the few Capitals producing right now. Still the best he can do and the number that leads the team in performance over the last five games is his four points. All those came from goals. Anthony Mantha is Washington's current best sniper. Let that sink in for a moment!



 

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Owen Robinson is the founder, manager, and lead writer for Pens Report. A resident of Pittsburgh's East End, he’s covered the Penguins as a reporter and photographer for various major outlets since 2010, including through two Stanley Cup seasons. In his spare time, he enjoys classic film, concerts, photography, Mac Miller, and hanging out with a good cat. You can follow him on Twitter @itsowenrobinson  

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