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NHL on NBCSN: Capitals and Penguins rekindle an old divisional battle

Nov 20, 2013, 9:56 AM EDT

Throughout the season, NBCSN will feature the NHL’s fiercest rivalries on Wednesday nights. Tonight the Pittsburgh Penguins head to Verizon Center to take on the Washington Capitals at 8 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

Whatever you might think of seeing the Capitals and Penguins squaring off once again, seeing the captains of those teams go head-to-head is more than worth the price of admission.

Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is tied for the league lead in goals (with St. Louis’ Alex Steen) with 17. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is tied with Steen for the league lead in points with 26. Two superstar players playing at the height of their abilities going against each other on Rivalry Night. That’ll do just fine.

As Capitals coach Adam Oates tells’s Chuck Gormley, there’s nothing wrong with appreciating the best in the game.

“Those guys are more like Gretz vs. Mario,” Oates said, referencing the “Who’s better?” rivalry between Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.

“They’re the superstars of the league. I would hope as a fan you appreciate that. You’ve got two of the best guys in the world playing against each other. It makes for an electric game.”

What helps make the game even better? The Caps trail the Penguins by one point for the Metropolitan Division lead.

The Capitals come into the game having won three in a row and seven of their last nine. The Penguins are coming off a 3-1 win over Anaheim on Monday and have won six of their last 10 games.

While it’s all well and good to laud how well Ovechkin has done this season, he’s only tied for the team lead in points with 24. The other player? Nicklas Backstrom.

Backstrom has had one of the stronger starts this season but is going about it quietly racking up 19 assists. Those 24 points are good for a four-way tie for fourth in the league in points. Ovechkin rediscovering his goal-scoring touch last season and into this year has paid off in part due to Backstrom setting him up.

Backstrom isn’t the only player honing his playmaking skills this season. Evgeni Malkin has made up for his lack of goal-scoring by piling up the assists with 17. While he has just three goals this season, his ability to set up his linemates has rounded out the Penguins attack. After all, Jussi Jokinen‘s eight goals only trail Crosby and Chris Kunitz on the team.

The least enviable guys on the ice tonight though? Marc-Andre Fleury and Braden Holtby. While both have had strong starts to their season, having to deal with offenses like these won’t make for an easy night. If they can steal the show, that will just add another layer to this modern rivalry.

  1. terrier92 - Nov 20, 2013 at 10:39 AM

    Another Pens game on NBC Hint there are another 29 teams in the NHL Enough already

    • hockey412 - Nov 20, 2013 at 11:16 AM

      As a Pens fan I couldn’t agree more. Evidently the Pens are rivals with everyone. Enough.

      I can’t stand the thought of Milbury verbally defecating all over any more Pens games.

      • dchambers144 - Nov 20, 2013 at 11:23 AM

        I would also rather see some other teams on NBC for Rivalry night. As a Pens fan, this would mean the Pens game would be on local tv and start at 7 or 7:30 and then during intermissions I could jump over the NBC game starting at 8pm. It’s nice to see some of the other teams in the league. It would also be nice in NBC would do a late game for the west coast teams. We hardly ever get to see them play.

    • jpelle82 - Nov 20, 2013 at 11:35 AM

      3 weeks straight of the penguins on rivalry night is enough already. it would behoove them to have a flex schedule, they dont have to do it wednesday night every week if there’s actually a rivalry game happening. case in point, the week the pens played boston…the islanders played the rangers on that tuesday night. i dont consider boston a rival, but i would consider the battel for ny a rivalry. just saying.

  2. pitpenguinsrulez - Nov 20, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    The Crapitals are our number 2 rival in my book

  3. pitpenguinsrulez - Nov 20, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    @terrier92 NBC goes for the teams that draw the best ratings. Yeah so what if Pittsburgh has been on for four straight weeks on Wednesday Night…it’s not like they aren’t playing teams that don’t draw numbers on national TV

  4. pens87 - Nov 20, 2013 at 10:49 AM

    Love this rivalry. Second best for the Pens after the Flyers in my opinion. While I don’t think anything can beat the 2009 playoff series, I still think the Ovi vs Crosby rivalry is alive and well especially since both players are starting the season hot. Should be a great game to watch tonight, looking forward to it.

    @terrier92 – This is our last until Dec 9, so you get a good break. I agree it be nice to see some western teams on their a little more often.

  5. steelers88 - Nov 20, 2013 at 11:49 AM

    The Penguins have dominated the Capitals.

    • pens87 - Nov 20, 2013 at 1:15 PM

      trying to pick a fight with the caps fans huh? The capitals all time against the Penguins are 107-126-16…domination it is not. I have the distinction of living in the DC area thanks to my job…and I lost many a bet with some of my friends who are capitals fans because I believe we only beat them once out of the 2010 and 2011 seasons combined. Last year we did go 3-0 vs them, but I wouldn’t call it “domination” except for that 6-3 win in Washington. Rivalries are not born from one team dominating another. Watching the top two teams in the metro division (currently) go at it tonight should be enjoyable.

      • whammy71 - Nov 20, 2013 at 1:20 PM

        The reason you lost during that time is cause Bruce Boudreau was 13-1-1 vs. Pens before the Pens/Ducks tilt the other night. And yes, the announcers mentioned it – I’m not that smart.

        Should be a good game tonight. Hoping Malkin can rev things up and get a goal or two.

      • jpelle82 - Nov 20, 2013 at 1:31 PM

        its been pretty quiet on here today as far as caps/penguins fans are considered. sure there will be more name calling and smack talk tomorrow though no matter what the outcome is. surprised you consider living here a “distinction” by the way. been in northern virginia 25 years now and i hate it more and more every year. too many c’mere folks with govt paychecks clogging up the roads and ruining our state politics IMHO.

    • jpelle82 - Nov 20, 2013 at 1:18 PM

      in the playoffs. i finished your sentence for you. without looking it up, i’m pretty sure its close to 50/50 regular season wise between these two teams. historically the penguins havent dominated anyone – they were so bad for so long, its an uphill climb. if you look at head to head with any team, they’re pretty even these days with everybody. wasnt the case 8 years ago even…i’m sure you were still breastfeeding back then so its ok though.

  6. kastout11 - Nov 20, 2013 at 1:20 PM

    Should be a good game, but I would also prefer to see some other teams. Although, NBC Sports Network is looking for ratings, so they will show Crosby and the Pens as much as they can. I agree that their #1 rivalry is definitely Philly. Notice all these rivalries have Crosby in the middle of it. Whether it is him and Chara or him and Giroux or him and Ovi, he is always in the middle of it.

  7. steelers88 - Nov 20, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    This might be a little off topic, but why don’t the Penguins ever start Jeff Zatkoff? Fleury is on pace to play a career high in games which in my opinion isn’t a good thing.

    • jpelle82 - Nov 20, 2013 at 5:00 PM

      a goalie starting 70 games isnt unheard of but would be a first for fleury. he’s played 18 of 21 so far so he’s on pace for 70 exactly. zatkoff sucks, he benefited from a good team game in his shutout performance but has hardly proven anything yet. i would expect to see him against the isles on friday. i think they’ve been too careful with fleury in the past few years and its yielded poor playoff results. his healthy average for starts in a 82 game season is around 65 so 70 is not that far off. i think they should work him hard all year, harden him for may games.

  8. ironcity6pak - Nov 20, 2013 at 4:29 PM

    They want ratings and pens vs caps is ratings. If u look at whats trending in the US, you will see pens trivia. Tells you something right?

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