Gameday: vs. Pittsburgh, Feb. 3

Neutralizing the two best players in the world is always a tough task; Crosby had 3 points Saturday. (Clydeorama).

The Washington Capitals will welcome the Pittsburgh Penguins to Verizon Center this afternoon for their traditional Super Bowl Sunday matinee game.  Pittsburgh, who won their last game against the Devils 5-1 on Saturday, are 5-3-0 for ten standings points; this places them atop the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference.  The Capitals, who beat the Flyers 3-2 on Friday night for their second win of the season, are 2-5-1 for five standings points; that places them fourth in the Southeast Division and 14th in the Eastern Conference.  This is the first of three meetings between these two teams this season, but the only one at Verizon Center.

Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 15 saves in the Penguins’ romp over New Jersey yesterday, seems likely to get the start in goal from head coach Dan Bylsma.  Fleury has posted a 2.54 GAA and .897 save percentage so far on the young season in his five starts, and has always played the Capitals tough despite his middling career statistics.  On the injury front, Pittsburgh is missing big-minute defenseman Matt Niskanen with an ankle injury, but otherwise will field a full lineup, including Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

After his excellent performance Friday night against the Flyers in which he made 29 saves, Braden Holtby will once again get the tap on the pads in net from Adam Oates.  Holtby’s last start was a big improvement over his first two, in which he allowed ten goals and took two losses; he has a 4.05 GAA and .885 save percentage in his three starts.  Both Brooks Laich and Jack Hillen will be unavailable for this game because of injury, while John Erskine will also be absent because of a suspension he received for elbowing Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds.  Expect Tom Poti to enter in Erskine’s place, while Mathieu Perreault and Roman Hamrlik remain healthy scratches.

Puck drops 12:38-ish; the game will be broadcast nationally by NBC.

Harry Hawkings is a college student credentialed to cover the Capitals for RtR.  Follow him on Twitter here for all your news needs this season.

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