Halak in, Laich out when Caps visit Penguins

Halak in, Laich out when Caps visit Penguins
March 11, 2014, 2:15 pm
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News and notes as the Capitals [30-26-10 [70 points] try to rebound against the Penguins [43-17-4, 90 points] tonight in Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center [7:30 p.m., NBCSN]:

No Laich: Caps LW Brooks Laich continues to battle with groin issues and remained in Washington for the second end of back-to-back games.

Laich also missed the back end of the Capitals’ last set of consecutive games, playing in Philadelphia last Wednesday but not going to Boston for a game against the Bruins on Thursday. He has practiced with the Caps just a handful of times since the Olympic break and said he is trying to manage his way through the remainder of the season.

With Laich sidelined the Caps recalled center Casey Wellman from the AHL Hershey Bears. It will be interesting to see who takes Laich’s spot on the top line with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin.

Will it be left wing Dustin Penner, who has no goals on seven shots in his first four games with the Caps? Will it be Wellman, who has two goals and one assist in 10 games with the Caps? Or will it be Evgeni Kuznetsov, who recorded two shots in 10:22 of ice time in his NHL debut in Monday night’s 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh?

RELATED: [Kuznetsov shows his potential in debut]

Halak gets the call: In a bit of a surprise, Jaroslav Halak is expected to start for the second straight night for the Capitals. Acquired just before last week’s NHL trade deadline for Michal Neuvirth, Halak allowed three goals on 20 shots Monday night and is 1-1-0 in his first two starts for the Caps.

On Monday morning, Capitals coach Adam Oates said he would likely split the back-to-back games between Halak and Braden Holtby, who is 0-4-0 lifetime against the Penguins and is coming off back-to-back losses to Philadelphia and Boston.

The Penguins are expected to turn to Marc-Andre Fleury who is 25-9-4 this season and 15-7-2 lifetime against the Caps.

0-for-6: The Caps have lost seven in a row to the Penguins, including six straight with Capitals coach Adam Oates behind the bench. Oates and Penguins coach Dan Bylsma were teammates in Anaheim in 2002-03.

Prior to Oates’ arrival, the Caps had gone 11-0-2 in their previous 13 regular season games against the Pens under Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter.

“There’s actually a couple teams we haven’t beaten yet,” Oates said, referring to the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets. “We’ve got to figure out details to get it done.”

Shooting gallery: The Caps had plenty of offensive chances against the Penguins Monday night, generating 69 shots [33 on goal, 20 blocked, 16 missed the net]. The Penguins had 45 shots [20 on goal, 15 blocked, 10 missed].

0-for-Ovi: Alex Ovechkin managed four shots and a team-high seven hits against the Penguins on Monday but failed to record a point for the second time in three games against Pittsburgh. “I thought there were moments he could have done more,” Oates said.

In 34 games against the Pens, Ovechkin has 23 goals and 18 assists. Nicklas Backstrom picked up a goal and now has 2 goals and 24 assists in 24 regular-season games against Pittsburgh.

Chimmer time: Caps LW Jason Chimera earned his career-high 22nd assist of the season on Monday. Chimera set his previous career-high for assists [21] during the 2006-07 season. Chimera has an assist in five of his last six games.

300 for Carly: Caps D John Carlson played in his 300th NHL game on Monday and led all skaters in ice time [24:24]. Carlson has led Washington in ice time in 11 of the last 13 games and has six assists in his last seven games.

Back-to-backs: The Capitals are in their 14th of 17 sets of back-to-back games this season. They are 11-9-7 in those games, with a 6-5-3 on the front ends and 5-4-4 in the second game. Their next set comes on march 29 and 30 when they face Boston and home and Nashville on the road.

Lasting thought: Asked how Monday night’s loss could impact Tuesday night’s rematch with the Pens, Oates said. “I hope the guys realize that was a winnable game and we can’t give them anything at the start, and start the way we just finished.”

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