Pre-game primer: Who will check Crosby?

Pre-game primer: Who will check Crosby?
November 20, 2013, 7:30 pm
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11.20.13: Caps week in review

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) at the face-off circle against the Nashville Predators during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 4-1.

(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

News and notes as the Capitals [12-8-1] face the Pittsburgh Penguins [13-8-0] tonight in a battle for first place in the Metropolitan Division [8 p.m., NBCSN].

Matching lines: Capitals coach Adam Oates has shied away from establishing a checking line this season and he says that won’t change tonight when the Penguins’ top line of Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Beau Bennett hits the ice, followed by Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Pascal Dupuis. “I want to have the confidence to put my fourth line against any line at any time,” he said. “Two minutes left in the game, down a goal. As a coach you would love to have that feeling. The other night against [David] Backes I went with my top three [lines]. If they double shift them and I’m just using one line, all of a sudden [Nicklas] Backstrom doesn’t play for six minutes.”

Remember me?: Adam Oates and Penguins coach Dan Bylsma were teammates together in Anaheim the year the Ducks went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2003. “We have a very good [relationship],” Oates said. “We played together and we sat near each other and we were both older guys at the time. We’ve been around the block. We played a lot of card games together. He’s a very smart guy, an upbeat guy. He wrote a couple children’s books. A very intellectual person, and good guy.”

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What a trio: Since all three have been in the NHL together, Crosby [1.41], Ovechkin [1.22] and Malkin [1.21] are the NHL’s top three in points per game.

Crosby vs. Ovechkin [since last season]: Since the start of last season Sidney Crosby leads all NHL players with 82 points [25 goals, 57 assists]. Ovechkin is tied for second with 80 points [49 goals, 31 assists]. In their 25 head-to-head meetings, Crosby has outscored Ovechkin 43-32. The Penguins are 16-7-2 in those head to head meetings.

Crosby vs. Ovechkin [this season]: In 21 games this season Crosby has 10 goals on 76 shots [3 on the power play and no game-winners], 16 assists, 26 points, 14 penalty minutes, is plus-3, has 14 hits, 9 blocked shots, is winning 55 percent of his faceoffs and is averaging 22:39 in ice time. In 19 games, Ovechkin has 17 goals on 110 shots [7 on the power play and 3 game-winners], 7 assists, 24 points, 14 penalty minutes, 49 hits, 7 blocked shots and his averaging 21:01 in ice time.

Crosby vs. Ovechkin [Career]: In 491 career games in the NHL, Sidney Crosby has 248 goals, 443 assists and 691 points for an average of .50 goals, .90 assists and 1.4 points per game. In 620 NHL games, Ovechkin has 388 goals, 371 assists and 759 points for an average of .62 goals, .60 assists and 1.2 points per game.

Loose pucks: Six of the last eight games between the Pens and Caps have been decided by one goal. The Pens have won the last four meetings, including a three-game sweep last season. In their last visit to Washington the Penguins blitzed the Caps 6-3 with Kunitz recording a career-high four goals. …The Caps have won six straight at VerizonCenter and are 8-3-0 at home this season. The Caps have outscored their opponents 21-12 at even strength in their last nine games. The Pens have allowed an average of 24.7 shots on the road this season, tied with Anaheim for lowest in the NHL.