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Caps vs. Penguins: Washington in desperate need of a win against rival

Caps vs. Penguins: Washington in desperate need of a win against rival

The Capitals (37-18-6) return home from New Jersey with 700 goals for Alex Ovechkin, but also with a loss. They will meet the rival Pittsburgh Penguins (37-17-6) on Sunday in a battle for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Catch the game on NBC with pre and postgame coverage on NBC Sports Washington. Pregame coverage begins at 11 a.m. with Caps FaceOff Live followed by Caps Pregame Live at 11:30 a.m. The game will be broadcast on NBC, but tune back into NBC Sports Washington for postgame coverage. Caps Postgame Live is on immediately following the game followed by Caps Overtime Live.

Here's what you need to know for Sunday's game.

700 and counting

Ovechkin finally reached the 700-goal milestone on Saturday. You could tell after the game that he was relieved to have finally gotten there so hopefully the flood gates open for him again after being limited to just two goals in the past seven games. It should also be good for the offense which looks like it has been forcing the puck to Ovechkin frequently the past few games.

When last we met

The Caps and Penguins have played only once this season, meeting on Feb. 2 at Capital One Arena on Super Bowl Sunday. Washington was handed a 4-3 loss, but played fairly well in a close game. To jog your memory, you can read more about that game here.

Saturday's game will be the last meeting between these two teams in Washington with two more matchups coming in Pittsburgh in March.

Holtby starts

How much has Braden  Holtby turned things around? The last time these two teams played, Ilya Samsonov got the start as he was clearly outplaying the veteran netminder. Since then, Holtby has seemingly regained his spot as the No. 1 and will get the start.

In his last five appearances, Holtby has a .919 save percentage and 2.52 GAA.

Line changes?

As Sunday's game is coming off a back-to-back, we won't know if Todd Reirden will be making any line changes until his pregame availability. if there is a change, it will most likely come on defense which again struggled in Saturday's loss.

Here is a look at the lines from Saturday's game:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Brenden Dillon - John Carlson
Michal Kempny - Dmitry Orlov
Jonas Siegenthaler - Nick Jensen

About yesterday

Sunday's game will be the back-end of a back-to-back for both teams. The Caps lost 3-2 in regulation to the Devils. The Pittsburgh Penguins, meanwhile, dropped a surprising loss at home, falling 5-2 to the Buffalo Sabres. Tristan Jarry started that game for Pittsburgh so expect Matt Murray to play against Washington.

Standings watch

Since both teams lost on Saturday, both remain tied for first in the Metro with 80 points, though Pittsburgh holds a game in hand. Washington is really struggling with four straight losses and six losses in seven games. The Penguins, meanwhile, have lost two straight by a combined score of 9-2.

Oh, and by the way, the Philadelphia Flyers are quietly creeping on both teams with 77 points, just three behind the division lead.

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Backstrom backs away from previous comment that Ovechkin is always yelling for the puck

Backstrom backs away from previous comment that Ovechkin is always yelling for the puck

With no live sports to watch, people have to find ways to pass the time. A fun way to do it is with NBC Sports Washington's NHL 20 simulations of the Capitals' scheduled games. Some of the players have even gotten involved joining the broadcast or reacting to the game results. So now, we have Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin providing commentary plus actual players reacting to a video game simulation. What a time to be alive.

Nicklas Backstrom was the star of the first game that was broadcast on NBC Sports Washington -- a 5-3 win over the St. Louis Blues on March 24 -- with a hat trick performance. The real Backstrom gave a FaceTime interview afterward and said, "I don't do hat tricks that often, so it was nice to seal it off with a hat trick. You see what happens when you can't hear Ovi scream all the time for the puck."

On Wednesday, Backstrom joined the media for a Zoom video conference and was asked about that very answer. He quickly clarified that it was meant as a joke.

"You know what?" he said. "I felt so awkward doing that interview to be honest. I'm like, I've got to try to make this funny as possible. I don't know how to answer questions about simulation games. That was obviously a joke."

When you think about a real person having to do an interview about their digital player's performance, you can see how things could get awkward pretty quickly. Then again, if Ovechkin were always calling for the puck it would not be that surprising. He is, after all, one of the greatest goal scorers of all time. He could be forgiven for wanting the puck on his stick as often as possible.

Backstrom, however, said of Ovechkin that he doesn't need to call for the puck. Part of what makes him great is his ability to find the best place to be to score at all times.

"I think looking at it, [Ovechkin's] never yelling for the puck," Bacsktrom said. "He's just that good of a goal-scorer and I'm happy to give him the puck every time too. I was just trying to make that funny interview."

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Hath's Heroes is keeping Garnet Hathaway busy during the quarantine

Hath's Heroes is keeping Garnet Hathaway busy during the quarantine

Like the rest of us, Capitals' winger Garnet Hathaway is just trying to stay sane and helping out where he can.

His charity, Hath's Heroes, which provides meals to first responders, is especially important in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Hath's Heroes started working with Capitals' Chef Robert "Robbie" Wood to provide even more meals to first responders, which Wood is matching, plus an additional meal to a high-risk individual in need.

“Chef Robbie has been serving the Caps for a long time and makes unbelievable food, I can attest to it, and they also have a great initiative with Kid Power and DC Central Kitchen," Hathaway said on the Capitals Talk Podcast.

While many are fortunate to be able to work from home or be with family during the pandemic, first responders are out on the front lines.

“It’s the social responsibility of staying safe, keeping your distance and trying to stay healthy and protecting those around you," Hathaway said. "So I feel that’s where we can all feel great about helping somebody, by taking responsibility for your actions and helping out if you can."

CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW ON THE CAPITALS TALK PODCAST:

Doing one's part is important to flatten the curve and Hathaway says donations of any amount are appreciated.

“For donations, if you can, if you have the opportunity to and you’re capable of, any amount really does make a difference.”

When he's not working with Hath's Heroes, Hathaway has been spending time with his fianceé and dog and trying to learn the Harmonica he got for Christmas. "Silent Night" was the first song he learned to play.

“Months away from the Christmas season, but I think I’ll be ready by then," Hathaway said.

Aside from downtime, Hathaway has taken solace in finding structure in his day.

“I think the biggest thing is trying to find a structure that works, that I can stay physically healthy and mentally healthy." 

“For everyone that’s feeling cooped up in their house, they gotta stay active and they gotta get some fresh air and they gotta stay healthy," Hathaway said.

While everyone has been binge-watching Netflix's hit documentary "Tiger King," Hathaway says he hasn't had the opportunity to watch yet.

“I might be the only person in America not watching Tiger King, but that’s not to say that I won’t get there at some point."

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