The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals sit first and second in the Metropolitan Division, respectively, but it's the Caps that have been winning more consistently of late.
Washington, though, has lost its last four matchups with the Penguins, and it will try to end that skid Wednesday night by earning a fourth consecutive victory and seventh in a row at home.
Pittsburgh (13-8-0) has seen its lead over Washington (12-8-1) cut to one point as it's dropped four of six overall and three straight on the road. The Penguins have been better in the past three games, though, winning for the second time in that span with a 3-1 victory over one of the top teams in the Western Conference, Anaheim, on Monday.
Brian Gibbons scored in his NHL debut and had the first of his team's three goals in the third period. Pittsburgh had scored one goal in four of its previous five games, but it now has some much-needed momentum heading into the showdown with the surging Capitals.
"I think Washington's been playing some good hockey. It will be a good challenge. It's always a fun game to play over there," goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said.
Washington is 7-1-1 in November, a stretch that started with four consecutive wins. The Capitals knocked off visiting St. Louis 4-1 on Sunday as Alex Ovechkin scored two of his team's three opening-period goals.
"It's always nice to score big goals in big game, but it was a very good team effort today," Ovechkin said.
Ovechkin has four of his 17 goals in the past three games and seven goals and one assist during the home win streak. Washington last took seven straight at the Verizon Center from Dec. 20, 2011-Jan. 15, 2012, a streak that included the club's latest victory over Pittsburgh.
The Capitals have been outscored 17-9 in the four matchups since that 1-0 win Jan. 11, 2012. They were beaten 6-3 in the most recent meeting in the nation's capital Feb. 3.
Washington might be more competitive Wednesday as it's scored 35 goals in the nine games this month, one more than its output from its 12 October contests. Nicklas Backstrom has a team-best 12 points in November (three goals, nine assists), and John Carlson has five goals and two assists in his last eight games.
"I feel like at the beginning of the year I was getting chances but I didn't really cash in on them," Carlson said. "Once you get on a roll, you feel a lot better and the net looks a little bigger to you. It's one of those things that you have to take as many as you can."
The Capitals might also get a boost during this visit from Pittsburgh if defenseman Mike Green can return from a lower-body injury. Green has missed the past two games, and Washington has been forced to use four defensemen who have made 65 or fewer NHL appearances.
"We've got kids back there on the blue line with relatively no experience that are doing a great job for us," coach Adam Oates said.
Ovechkin has three goals and four assists during his team's losing streak to Pittsburgh, while Penguins stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have eight points apiece in those four games.
Chris Kunitz scored a career-high four goals in Pittsburgh's most recent visit to Washington but has one goal and one assist in his last six games.
The Penguins haven't dropped four straight on the road since Dec. 29, 2009-Jan. 3, 2010.