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Penguins Vs. Capitals: Bitter, Banged Up Rivals Square Off In Washington

The Caps and Penguins are both losing and banged up, but one team can correct the former Wednesday at Verizon Center.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 01: Members of the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins are separated during the third period at Verizon Center on December 1, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 01: Members of the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins are separated during the third period at Verizon Center on December 1, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Normally. the added intrigue of a game between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins is a battle for Eastern Conference supremacy. Instead, the bitter rivals, both in the midst of disappointing seasons, will battle Wednesday at Verizon Center to stay afloat in the Eastern Conference.

Both Washington and Pittsburgh got off to hot starts this season, with the former starting 7-0-0 and the latter winning 10 of its first 16 games. Since then, however, the bottom has dropped out for both teams; the Caps have lost two straight after coming home empty-handed on a two-game road trip, while the Penguins have lost five straight after Tuesday's 5-1 loss the Ottawa Senators. Only two points separate Washington in 10th and Pittsburgh in 8th.

Unexpected positioning in the standings is not the only thing plaguing these two teams; both are decimated by injuries. Pittsburgh is missing Sidney Crosby (concussion), Kris Letang (concussion) and Jordan Staal (knee). Luckily for the Penguins, James Neal's foot injury was not as serious as first thought and he did not miss any game action.

Meanwhile, Washington could be without both Nicklas Backstrom (head injury) and Mike Green (groin). Reports have surfaced that the Caps will recall defenseman Tomas Kundratek from AHL Hershey, so perhaps Green's injury is a serious one. Green made it through one full game before experiencing tightness in his groin, the same injury that cost him 23 consecutive games.