The once formidable opponents, the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins, square off tonight at the Verizon Center. Things are a bit different though this season, for both teams. The Capitals sit in the tenth spot in the Eastern Conferenc3ew, outside the top 8, while the Pens are clinging to the eight spot in the Conference.
The Caps continue their road struggles, posting only 7 wins on the road, suffering 5-2 losses this past week to the Kings and the Sharks. The Capitals will take the ice without their leading scorer, Nicklas Backstrom, who will miss his third consecutive game tonight. Backstrom has been placed on injured reserve after taking an elbow tot he head from Rene Bourque, against the Calgary Flames. Backstrom is eligible to come off the IR at anytime. Although the Capitals insist that Backstrom is concussion symptom free, the fact is, the shot tot he head has him missing his third straight. Makes you wander. Caps will also skate without D Mike Green. Green suffered groin tightness just two games after returning from missing 23 games for a groin strain. HC Dale Hunter insists that Green's absence is not long term and that is a 'strength' issue. WE will see.
The Caps take the ice with an NHL debut by recalled D Tomas Kundratek. Kundratek was drafted in the third round by the New York Rangers of the 2008 NHL Draft. The Capitals acquired Kundratek from the Rangers on Nov. 8 in exchange for Capitals prospect Francois Bouchard. In 21 games this season with the Caps' AHL affiliate Hershey Bears, Kundratek has 6 goals and 1 assists and a +2 rating.
Pittsburgh will be without superstar Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal. Crosby has been out with recurring concussion symptoms. Stall is out 4 to 6 weeks with a knee injury.
Tomas Vokoun will face Pittsburgh's Marc Andre Fleury tonight.