NHL on NBCSN: Penguins face Maple Leafs, eye Metro title race with Capitals

Penguins vs. Maple Leafs, battle with Capitals for Metro
Getty Images

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

You don’t need to strain to hype up a game between the Penguins and Maple Leafs in 2020.

If anything, you may need to fight the urge to drool at the sheer wattage of star power on the ice. Beyond Sidney Crosby vs. Auston Matthews, you also have Evgeni Malkin, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and other ultra-talented players to watch.

Delightfully – for viewers, at least – the two teams both face serious stakes. Big picture, the Penguins’ biggest fight is with the Capitals for the Metro crown, while the Maple Leafs and Panthers seem primed to battle for a playoff spot.

PHT will break down both races on Tuesday. This post focuses on the Metro battle between Pittsburgh and Washington. Click here for a look at Toronto vs. Florida.

(Don’t be surprised if you see Capitals fans openly rooting for Toronto on Tuesday, in other words.)

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

Do schedules give either Penguins or Capitals an edge in Metro race?

Penguins Capitals Metro race Feb 18

As you can see, the Capitals lead the Metro by one point, but the Penguins hold two games in hand. Leafing through projections gives you another glimpse of how fascinating that race could be. The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn gives the Penguins a 64-percent chance to finish first (sub required), while Money Puck puts the Capitals at … 64.6 percent.

Rummaging through the numbers, here are a few observations:

  • If you place weight in home/away records, then you’d think Washington needs home-ice far less than Pittsburgh does. The Capitals are 21-8-1 on the road (vs. 16-9-4 at home). The Penguins, meanwhile are 21-5-4 at home and 15-10-2 on the road.
  • Pittsburgh has more games remaining, but the Capitals actually have one more home game remaining (12) than Pittsburgh does (11). The Penguins play 14 of their final 25 games on the road.
  • Capitals’ challenging stretch: Washington plays five of six on the road from Feb. 27 – March 9.
  • Two noteworthy Penguins runs: Penguins face a four-game road trip Feb. 23-29. They also play four of five on road from March 10-18.

[Catch Alex Ovechkin’s next chance at 700 goals on NBCSN on Thursday]

Three more head-to-head matchups between Pens and Caps

The Penguins and Capitals faced off once so far this season, with Pittsburgh winning in Washington 4-3 on Feb. 2.

That lack of early-season games sets the stage for potentially high-stakes matches, as they face off three more times this season.

Feb. 23 in Washington: Both the Capitals (in New Jersey) and Penguins (home vs. Sabres) will be closing up back-to-back sets. That game is currently scheduled to air on NBC this weekend. Interesting that it comes the day before the 2020 NHL Trade deadline, huh?

March 7 in Pittsburgh: Neither team faces games on March 6, so they should both be as fresh as you can this deep in a season.

March 22 in Pittsburgh: Once again, neither team would be closing off back-to-back sets. This could be a big one on NBC.

Kenny Albert and Pierre McGuire will call the action at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa.

An hour-long special on Connor McDavid, titled Connor McDavid: Whatever It Takes will premiere following the game at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. The feature provides an inside look at McDavid’s comeback from a knee injury in last season’s final game. Click here for a trailer.

The Miracle on Ice – 40th Anniversary, featuring Al Michaels, who called the momentous matchup in 1980, and Mike Tirico, will premiere on Wednesday night at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. 40 years to the month, this 30-minute special will feature Tirico’s wide-ranging conversation with Michaels about the buildup to the game, his iconic call, as well as the legacy of the moment that became bigger than sports and still resonates today.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Scroll Down For:

    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

    austonmatthews
    Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

    caufield surgery
    David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

    matty beniers
    Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
    0 Comments

    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.