The Pittsburgh Penguins are 4-0-1 in their past five games and fully rested from a three-game trip to western Canada that ended with a win in Calgary Saturday night.
The Capitals will be playing in their fifth game in seven nights and are coming off back-to-back shootout losses to the Buffalo Sabres and San Jose Sharks.
So, will fatigue be a factor tonight at ConsolEnergyCenter when the Capitals visit Pittsburgh for the first time this season on NHL Wednesday Night Rivalry?
“We’ll get in there and get some rest,” Capitals left wing Brooks Laich said after Tuesday night’s 2-1 shootut loss to the Sharks. “It’s an 8 o’clock game, so we’ll get a little more rest.
“We know they’re going to push hard the first 10 minutes. They’ve been resting and maybe wanting to catch us tired. But I actually think our energy level is pretty good right now. I’m not concerned about that. It’s about execution and focus and playing a big rival of ours.”
The last time the Capitals and Penguins met was on Nov. 20 at Verizon Center. The Penguins dominated every phase of the game, outshooting them 40-18 in a 4-0 victory that ended with the Caps being booed off the ice.
“It was a great game by them and a bad game by us,” Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said after that game.
“You gotta take your poison,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said.
Before that game the Capitals were one point behind the Penguins in the Metropolitan Division standings. Including that win over the Caps, the Penguins have gone 20-4-2 while the Caps have gone 10-8-7.
As a result the Caps enter tonight’s game 16 points behind the Penguins in the Metro standings.
Laich said he expects the importance of the game to overshadow any physical edge the Penguins might possess from being well-rested.
“Honestly, both teams are professionals,” Laich said. “Just because they’ve been off, they’ve still played 47 games this year. Missing a couple days of games is not really going to make them rusty. They probably watched our game [against the Sharks]. We need to get some rest and get charged up to play.”