PITTSBURGH - News, notes and quotes from the Capitals’ locker room as they prepare to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at Consol Energy Center:
New sheriff in town: Tonight will be the Penguins’ first game under new coach Mike Sullivan, who replaced Mike Johnston on Saturday. The Pens are hoping a harsher voice will help snap them out of a 2-2-3 funk that has left them one point out of a playoff spot in the East.
“It’s not a good situation because the organization did not see success with the team,” said Ovechkin, who has been through four coaching changes in his 11 seasons in Washington. "A lot of times it’s not about coaches, it’s about players.”
The Capitals all agree they will need to be ready for a strong push from the Penguins, who rank 27th in the NHL in goals.
“Like anything new, you want to impress him and show him what you’re all about,” said Caps right wing Justin Williams. “We expect a big push. We’ve been very average the past handful of games and it’s time for us to throw a game together and what better game than tonight?”
Capitals coach Barry Trotz will go with the same lineup he used Saturday night in Tampa, when the Caps pulled out a 2-1 win over the Lightning on goals by Jay Beagle and Evgeny Kuznetsov, along with 35 stops by Braden Holtby.
“We know they’re going to come out hard with a new sheriff in town,” Trotz said. “I don’t think systematically much will change (with Sullivan behind the bench). Our game plan is to do what we need to do and do it efficiently.
“They’re going to come with a lot of will. Any time there is a (coaching) change, players always say it’s on them. You know they’re going to come out hard right off the bat.”
Last time we met: The Penguins have just one win (1-2-1) within the Metropolitan Division and it came against the Capitals back on Oct. 28 in a 3-1 win at Verizon Center.
“I remember it was a pretty intense game, pretty physical,” Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen said.
Sid vs. Beags: Caps center Jay Beagle will spend most of tonight trying to shut down either Evgeni Malkin, who leads the Pens with 13 goals and 13 assists, or Sidney Crosby, who has six goals and 13 assists.
“Malkin is obviously a big body,” Beagle said. “He uses it well. He likes to turn on you and get you sucked in and spin off you. Both are very dynamic.”
Beagle, who is third in the NHL in faceoff winning percentage at 58.9 percent, said Crosby has one of the most unusual faceoff techniques in the league.
“He stands back and he slaps the puck, almost like a shot,” Beagle said. “I mean, he can break your stick. It’s something you don’t see from too many players. A lot of guys take draws similar ways and he takes it one way and he’s good at it and it’s tough to beat.”
Crosby has won 53.5 percent of his draws this season.