NHL on NBCSN: Penguins kick off Rivalry Night vs. Capitals

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Washington Capitals host the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Verizon Center at 8:00 p.m. ET tonight as part of a back-to-back set of games on NBCSN on Wednesday. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have held up their end of the bargain in maintaining one of the NHL’s most organic rivalries, yet they’re waiting for the Washington Capitals to fully rebound to the form that had hockey fans daydreaming about perennial playoff matches between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.

The two teams will renew acquaintances on Wednesday night, as “Rivalry Night” presents quite the appetizing double-header of games.

It’s unclear if Crosby will be able to play tonight, as he’s targeting either Wednesday or Friday as a return date from the lower-body injury that caused some controversy.

The Penguins showed that they can still win down some key players last night, as they cooled the hot Winnipeg Jets 5-3 on the strength of Kris Letang’s impressive five-assist output. With Patric Hornqvist back in the mix, it’s still a group that demands respect from opponents.

Washington shouldn’t be short on respect for the Penguins anyway, as Pittsburgh had won eight straight regular season matchups before a Dec. 27 win by the Caps.

After a stretch in which they earned a point in all but one of 19 games (going 14-1-4), the Capitals are struggling right now, dropping four straight losses. They fell 4-3 to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, even with Sergei Bobrovsky on the mend for quite some time.

On the bright side, Ovechkin has been scoring at a very nice clip. While he didn’t generate a point last night, Ovechkin went into the All-Star break on a three-game multi-point streak (five goals, one assist). With both teams dealing with similar fatigue challenges, Ovechkin could very well be that much tougher to handle.

The Penguins followed Tuesday’s win by trading Marcel Goc for Maxim Lapierre, so we’ll see if the pest makes his Pittsburgh debut tonight.

Thomas Greiss went for the Penguins last night, so one would expect Marc-Andre Fleury to be in Pittsburgh’s net. Similar logic would indicate that Justin Peters may get the nod for Washington, although Braden Holtby’s been enough of a workhorse that both possibilities seem reasonable.

There’s enough on the line that the two squads can really start to rekindle the rivalry tonight. It probably wouldn’t take much to fan the flames there, after all.