The Pittsburgh Penguins are doing just fine without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and David Perron became the latest reason why.
With Crosby possibly back, Perron looks to continue his scoring surge as the Penguins attempt to re-establish their success against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night.
Injuries and cases of the mumps have plagued Pittsburgh (27-12-8) all season, but it’s still second in the Metropolitan Division, three points behind the Eastern Conference-leading New York Islanders.
The Penguins have been particularly impressive sans Crosby and Malkin, who are tied for the team lead with 51 points and own a combined three MVPs and four Art Ross Trophies, going 9-0-1 in the last 10 games without them.
With Crosby and Malkin out Tuesday, Perron and Kris Letang chipped in to power a 5-3 win over Winnipeg, as the Penguins emerged from the All-Star break to snap a season-high four-game skid. Perron had two points, while Letang had a career-high five assists after missing one game with concussion-like symptoms.
"Even though they weren’t playing you want to make sure to prove to everyone that you can still play," Perron said. "We found a way to win without them."
Pittsburgh may get Crosby back after he received an injection last week to treat a lower-body injury, but Malkin may be sidelined for at least another week with his.
Perron, though, may continue making a difference. He has collected six goals and three assists in nine games since being acquired in a trade from Edmonton on Jan. 2. The left wing had five goals in 38 games with the Oilers after netting a career-high 28 last season.
"Playing with Sid the last little while brought me the confidence," Perron said. "Just trying to carry the wave."
Perron hasn’t scored in six career meetings with Washington, but Crosby has 63 points in 37 games – including the playoffs.
The superstar center, however, was a minus-3 in a 3-0 home loss to the Capitals on Dec. 27. He had 15 points over the previous seven matchups, while the Penguins won eight straight – three in the nation’s capital.
Stopping Crosby and Perron will be key for Washington, which has been outscored 17-14 during a four-game slide, giving up one more goal than during its previous nine contests (7-0-2).
Coach Barry Trotz isn’t too pleased with his team’s defensive play after Tuesday’s 4-3 defeat at Columbus.
"We’re just giving up too many goals right now," Trotz said. "In this league, trying to win every game 5-4, you’re not going to do it."
Braden Holtby has a 3.94 goals-against average and an .868 save percentage while losing his last three starts, making 26 saves against the Blue Jackets.
It’s unclear if he’ll get the nod on back-to-back nights, but he stopped all 31 shots at Pittsburgh in December after losing his first four meetings with a 4.38 GAA.
Backup Justin Peters isn’t any better with a 4.48 GAA while losing six straight to the Penguins. He had 21 stops in a 5-4 loss at Dallas in his most recent appearance on Jan. 17.
With the Capitals foundering defensively, Alex Ovechkin will try to bounce back from his pointless effort from Tuesday. He had entered the break with 11 goals and four assists over the 11 prior games. That stretch began immediately after not figuring in the scoring in a third straight meeting with Pittsburgh.
Ovechkin hasn’t found the net in eight straight home matchups with the Penguins.