Capitals-Penguins Game Four Preview: Alexander Semin Misses Practice

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Capitals-Penguins Game Four Preview: Alexander Semin Misses Practice
(Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
The Washington Capitals face the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Four of their best-of-seven Second Round Stanley Cup playoff series.

The Caps lost Game Three 3-2 in overtime on a Kris Letang shot from the point that was redirected by defenseman Shaone Morrisonn over goalie Semyon Varlamov's left shoulder. Varlamov made 39 saves on 42 shots in the game.

Pittsburgh definitely played like the more desperate team, especially after Alex Ovechkin scored less than two minutes into the game. From about the ten-minute mark, the Penguins controlled play and, with the help of seven power plays, really took the action to the Caps.

UPS AND DOWNS

With the Caps dealing with various injuries, they've had to call on their AHL affiliate Hershey, themselves locked in a tight 2-1 series with the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Baby Penguins, for reinforcements.

The most recent was this morning, when forward Jay Beagle was recalled. Eric Fehr is still suffering from an undisclosed "upper body injury", and center Michael Nylander was ineffective in Game Three, taking a penalty and hardly skating in the third period.

Nylander had only 7:27 of ice time, second lowest on the team to Chris Clark (6:35). He had no shots, no hits, and one of the three registered giveaways on the scoresheet.

Beagle joins defenseman Tyler Sloan, who has been filling in for John Erskine (foot/ankle). Erskine, out since Game One, will participate in this morning's skate and be a game-time decision.

There was word this morning that winger Alexander Semin did not take part in the morning skateat Mellon Arena, prompting question about his status and Beagle's role in tonight's game.  Semin took a hard slash in Game Two but played in Game Three.  His status has to be listed as questionable at this point.

Karl Alzner, who was recalled as a precaution against Tom Poti's sore groin, was returned to Hershey today. He did not appear for the Caps in the playoffs.

WAKING THE SLEEPING DOG

Evgeni Malkin was almost absent from Games One and Two in DC, and much was made about it before Game Three. Malkin didn't disappoint, as he clearly was the best player on the ice in the game.

He had one goal on nine shots and injected himself into the action on every shift. He was able to carry the puck unmolested almost every time he was around it. On his goal, he sidestepped Brooks Laich like a running back avoiding a heavier defensive lineman.

Malkin also got into the physical stuff, crashing into Varlamov and drawing a retaliatory slashing call on the young netminder.

SILENCING THE GHOSTS

It is well documented that historically the Capitals have had spectacular failure to the Penguins in the playoffs. It's not exactly fair to compare this team to previous models of the franchise, but the media does nonetheless.

Washington has had three playoff series with the Pens where they've enjoyed two-game series leads, only to see their hopes dashed with a late-series comeback.

1992: Caps take 2-0 lead, Penguins rally to take series 4-3.
1995: Capitals take commanding 3-1 lead, Pittsburgh takes three in a row.
1996: Caps up 2-0, never win again.

It's enough to give a franchise a complex.

But it plays more upon the fans' psyche more than the players, many of whom were still in bantam hockey when these series took place.
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