When the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins last met, the Caps left Pittsburgh with a 3-1 win in the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic in front of over 68,000 at Heinz Field and an international audience. It seems fitting that the rematch would come on yet another huge stage: Super Bowl Sunday. The Caps and Pens will square off Sunday afternoon at Verizon Center in the precursor to Super Bowl XLV.
This isn't the first time that these two teams have met on Super Bowl Sunday; last season, the Capitals battled back from a 4-1 deficit to win 5-4 in overtime behind a hat trick from Alex Ovechkin. The Caps hope to keep momentum alive after Friday's 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, a win that cut the Lightning's Southeast Division lead to three points.
The Capitals won Friday's game without the services of Alexander Semin, who is still nursing a groin injury. Semin, who hasn't played since January 8, practiced this week and could return next week. The streaky winger has 18 goals this season despite being held scoreless since November 28.
Compared to Pittsburgh's injury woes, Washington's situation looks advantageous. Evgeni Malkin tore his ACL and MCL in a collision with Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers Friday and will likely miss the rest of the season. The Penguins are already missing captain Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Mark Letestu (knee surgery), so they are missing three of their top four centers. The fourth center in question, Jordan Staal, avoided suspension last week after punching New York Rangers forward Brandon Prust during a scrum.
Despite those injuries, the Penguins have won five straight; they currently sit six points ahead of the Capitals in the Eastern Conference standings. Washington has earned points in five of six games (3-1-2).