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Posted at 1:19 PM ET, 01/ 1/2011

Capitals look for another strong performance against Penguins in Winter Classic

By Katie Carrera

The biggest lineup change for this evening's NHL Winter Classic at Heinz Field will be the addition of Penguins center Jordan Staal, who will be playing in his first game this season under the lights against the Capitals after battling foot and hand injuries.

Pittsburgh Coach Dan Bylsma said that Staal will see time on a line with Evgeni Malkin but that he will limit the rangy center's minutes in his first game back since the injuries. For the Capitals, this means they must prepare for the Penguins' full complement of star centers (even if Malkin will be on the wing at certain times).

"They've always got one of their big centers on the ice," Coach Bruce Boudreau said of the impact of Staal's return. "They can go to the power play and have Malkin and [Sidney] Crosby out and then they come back with Staal. It seems that when he's been in the lineup in the past against us, if Sid or Malkin aren't having a good game, Staal's having a great game. He can be sometimes not having a great game but the other two guys are having a great game."

Not long ago on Dec. 23, the Capitals had a strong outing against Pittsburgh that resulted in a 3-2 shootout loss. It was a hotly-contested, playoff-like atmosphere and for the better part of the contest Washington made it hard for the Penguins' stars to have many clean opportunities. The Capitals want to make sure they follow the same type of formula --preventing Pittsburgh from entering high-traffic areas and impeding Semyon Varlamov's view, maintaining a heavy forecheck -- to have just as good of a showing on prime time against the Penguins tonight.

"We're going to repeat the process, stick to the game plan that we know will make us successful," Matt Hendricks said adding that it will be important to keep the Penguins' chances to the perimeter once again. Washington limited Pittsburgh to just 12 shots through two periods in the first meeting of the season.

"That comes with staying out of the penalty box, obviously, and they've got a lot of skill, a lot of talented offensive players and keeping them to the outside, keeping them to the perimeter makes it a little more difficult to get those opportunities."

By Katie Carrera  | January 1, 2011; 1:19 PM ET
Categories:  Winter Classic  
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Next: Capitals talk about early impressions of the Winter Classic atmosphere

Comments

Did anyone else see the NHL Network interview yesterday with the Refs for tonight's game?

I find it a little bothersome that one of the refs(I forget his name) is from Pittsburgh and was wearing Penguins gear(a scarf) during the interview. He then spoke about his love of Pittsburgh(the city).

He may come out and ref a perfect game and show no bias whatsoever, but why would the NHL want to put out refs whose personal ties hints that the ref may not be neutral.

It would make more sense to only have refs, reffing games who have no ties(or as little as possible) to the two cities of the teams playing that game.

The ref is from and still lives in Pittsburgh. It just seems shady and dumb.

Since Colin Campbell may be in charge of it, shady and dumb seems about right.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 1, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse

That was Stephen Walkom I think is his name. I noticed Devorski more because he was making odd faces as Walkom was talking.

The other thing I noticed yesterday and was REALLY surprised. Canada played Sweden and lost to I thought was a full house. Later the US played the Swiss and won a very good game to go 4-0. I think the game started 7:30 pm ET and yet many open seats there at the Sabres Arena, with a fair percentage of those in attendance still wearing the red of Canada.

I guess I'm very surprised that the citizens of Buffalo, a huge hockey town, would fail to support our Under-20 team.

As for Poti being scratched, somewhere in Vermont right now vertmontcaps is trying to quell his flow of tears of happiness for Johnny E.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | January 1, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I know of one official who lives in Arlington and does his fair share of Caps games. I would be willing to bet that each official has some sort of allegiance to some team. They are life long hockey fans and humans. They are also professionals. I am sure they will ref a fair game, at least as fair any other Caps-Pens game.

Posted by: pebowers | January 1, 2011 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of Devorski, would someone please post a link to a vid of him interacting with the CBJ fans. That story is too funny but I haven't been able to find video of it anywhere.

Posted by: FunkyGloveFacewash | January 1, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

If you were to ask Campbell whether he saw a conflict of interest in having a Pittsburgh resident wearing Pens gear referee such a major NHL event involving the Pens, I'm sure he would genuinely not understand the question.

Posted by: zmega | January 1, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

As far as the conflict of interest argument, while I do agree that NHL refs are professional (intend to call every game without bias), the fact is that they are human and therefore have emotions, to some degree. To think that a ref doesn't ever let their emotions skew their game calling is naive (see above post about Devorski). Do I think a ref from the Pittsburg area will call this game in favor of the home team? I don't know, but for as much as the NHL is hyping this game you would think they would have the intelligence to avoid this speculation by not assigning a local to the officiating crew. No NHL ref should ever be allowed to wear anything bearing the logo of any NHL team while said ref is actively serving. Geez, this is just common sense, but then again, why would we expect such integrity from a league that has Bettman at the helm.

Posted by: FunkyGloveFacewash | January 1, 2011 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Devorski lives near Harrisburg PA. He and Boudreau were neighbors when Bruce was coaching the Bears.

Posted by: tess2201 | January 1, 2011 5:06 PM | Report abuse

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