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How will Letang's suspension alter Game 4 landscape?

How will Letang's suspension alter Game 4 landscape?

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will be without defenseman Kris Letang when they face the Capitals for Game 4 of their second-round playoff series Wednesday night here at Consol Energy Center.

Letang has been suspended one game for his open-ice check to the head of Capitals left wing Marcus Johansson, who missed Tuesday’s practice with an upper body injury. 

“He’s the backbone of their defense,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said of Letang, who leads the Penguins in average ice time with 29:13 a game. “He goes back for pucks and gets them out of his zone with a pass or a flip. He transitions the puck and logs key minutes on their PP.”

With Letang out of the lineup the Penguins likely will turn to Justin Schultz and Derrick Pouliot for their third defense pairing. The two young defensemen have combined for just two career playoff games. 

“He’s an important player for them,” Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie said. “He plays both sides of the puck, he plays big minutes for them. We lost a key component on our D line in (Brooks Orpik). Everyone has to make adjustments. It’s a big loss for them but they’ve got some players who can make a difference too.”

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he doesn’t think Letang’s one-game suspension will change anything for the Penguins, but it will heighten the importance of the Capitals’ game plan of targeting Pittsburgh’s defensemen.  

“They have an identity,” Trotz said of the Penguins, “and they’ll try to play to their identity. Kris is a tremendous defenseman in this league. He’s a top guy. They’re just going to have to try to fill the void like we are with Brooks out.”

Unlike Game 2, when Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta did not return after taking a hit from Brooks Orpik, Johansson returned to play the second and third periods in Game 3 after absorbing the hit from Letang. Johansson finished the game with a career-high nine hits in the game.

“Nothing should lessen (the length of a suspension),” Trotz before the suspension was announced. “… I said a lot yesterday and I’m probably going to say not very much today. You know my thoughts from yesterday. I read all them.”

Trotz insinuated on Monday that the NHL gave Orpik a three-game suspension because the Penguins are their opponents.

As for what goes on inside the NHL Department of Player Safety, Wilson said it varies from hit to hit. He referenced Brayden Schenn’s chop at the back of Evgeny Kuznetsov’s right leg in the first round against the Flyers. If Kuznetsov was injured on the play, Wilson said he’s certain Schenn would have been suspended.

“The league looks at a million different things,” Wilson said. “They slow it down to a fraction of a second and see exactly where the contact was and they take into consideration how the other player’s doing. It’s unfortunate it has to come down to how the other player’s doing. It should be more black and white. But if you see a guy go down with a concussion, the hit is usually a little more severe.”

Wilson joked that he’d love for the NHL to turn back the clock 20 years and let players settle their grievances on the ice.

“I’d love to be able to go out there and drop the gloves and grab Letang, but it’s a new age,” Wilson said. “It’s not old-school hockey anymore.”

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: And so we meet again

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: And so we meet again

We all knew this was coming, right?

The Capitals will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs for the third consecutive season and for the 11th time in franchise history. Washington has only beaten Pittsburgh once in their previous 10 series. This season gives them the opportunity to get over the second round and Pittsburgh hump once and for all.

Will this year be different? Will the Caps finally take down their arch nemesis? Will they finally advance to the conference final?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps-Penguins matchup in the Capitals Faceoff Podcast.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page

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Penguins will be without Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin for Game 1

Penguins will be without Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin for Game 1

As the Capitals and Penguins prepare to open their second-round series, significant injury news came out of Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Head coach Mike Sullivan informed the media that both Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin would not play in Game 1 due to injuries.

The fact that Hagelin would not be traveling with the team suggests that he will miss Game 2 as well, but that has not been confirmed. That also means that Malkin is at least a possibility for Game 2.

Malkin did not play in Game 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers after getting injured in a collision with Jakub Voracek in Game 5. Hagelin was injured in Game 6 on a big hit from Claude Giroux.

So when the series against Washington begins, Pittsburgh will be playing without two-thirds of its second line.

Malkin made a real push for the Hart Trophy this season with 42 goals and 98 points. He was a major factor in last season's Cup run with 28 points in 26 games and was gearing up for another big postseason with five points in his first five games.

But don't celebrate too much, Caps fans. It is not as if either loss will be crippling to Pittsburgh's offense.

Despite not having Malkin for the entire Game 6 and losing Hagelin midway through the second period, the Penguins still managed to put up eight goals on the Flyers in the series-clinching win.

Still, with scoring depth being such a strength for Pittsburgh, the Capitals need to take advantage. The Penguins will be without one of the best players in the NHL and that makes Game 1 crucial. Washington has gone down 0-2 in each of their past two playoff series including last year against Pittsburgh. They lost that series in seven games. They need to have a better start this year and with no Malkin or Hagelin for Game 1, this may be a must-win for the Caps.

Riley Sheahan and Dominik Simon skated with Phil Kessel on the second line at practice on Wednesday and it is a good bet that is how the second line will remain for Game 1. That way, Pittsburgh can keep its third line of Conor Sheary, Derick Brassard and Bryan Rust line together which has been very effective.