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Penguins looking to leave the East Division basement

January 19, 2021, 1:23 PM ET [99 Comments]
Ryan Wilson
Pittsburgh Penguins Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Penguins will look to make it two wins in a row to even their record on the year as they face the Washington Capitals for the second consecutive game. This game isn't going to look like the last one. The Penguins have a big lineup change. Kasperi Kapanen is ready to go. Mike Sullivan has given the green light and he will make his 2020-21 Penguins debut this evening.

Casey DeSmith will be making the start and he should. His .890 was the best a Penguins goaltender has done this year and he helped earn the win via shutout. This by no means writes off Jarry for the season. In a 56 game season Mike Sullivan is doing the right thing by "riding the hot hand".

Here is what the Penguins lineup looks like with Kapanen back and Rodrigues dropping to the 4th line (my assumption there were no line rushes today due to multiple players taking their option of staying home). It also has the changes to the defense with Riikola taking over for Matheson and Ruhwedel in for Ceci

Will this be the game we start to see some signs of life in the goal scoring department from Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, and/or Bryan Rust? Or will the third line and other depth players continue to their hot start to the year?

Sam Lafferty was added to the taxi squad. His turnover that led directly to a goal on Sunday didn't help his cause. It is important to remember he is 25 years old, soon to be 26 in March, and kind of is who he is. Expecting anything more than fourth line contributions is asking him to do too much.

Something I haven't really touched on is the Penguins top pairing being bad so far. Kris Letang has an xGF% of 43.12(!) and Dumoulin is at 47.80. I don't expect this trend to continue but to say it has been a slow start for one of the best pairings in the league the past few years would be underselling it.

The Capitals won't be using the same look as they had the other night. They are making some changes to their lines as well. Here is what they look like

Former Penguins prospect Daniel Sprong will be on the second line while former Penguins "top line player" Conor Sheary will be a healthy scratch. Sprong played in the contest Sunday but saw his ice time cut in the third period when Laviolette was double shifting Tom Wilson.

Currently the Capitals are in first place in the East Division with five standings points and +2 goal differential while the Penguins are tied for last with the Sabres with two points and a -5 goal differential. Big game tonight to close the gap.

Thanks for reading!
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