News flash: The Pittsburgh Penguins do not like Tom Wilson. OK, so that's not exactly news. Even a casual hockey fan will know that Wilson has taken up so much room in the heads of the Penguins that he could sell real estate. The president of his anti-fan club has to be none other than Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford.
Rutherford was quite vocal after Wilson delivered a hit to Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese in Game 3 of the second round last season – a hit that netted Wilson a three-game suspension – hinting that Wilson was afraid to fight 6-foot-7 defenseman Jamie Oleksiak who repeatedly challenged Wilson after the hit.
"When Jamie challenged Wilson, he couldn't run quick enough to get away from him," Rutherford said.
Well, careful what you wish for.
Wilson was suspended for the first meeting between Washington and Pittsburgh this season, but he sure wasn't running from Oleksiak the last time these teams met on Dec. 19
In the first minute of the game, Oleksiak hit Matt Niskanen and Wilson made a beeline for him. Just 55 seconds in, both players dropped the gloves.
To call the fight one-sided would be an understatement. Wilson dropped Oleksiak like a ton of bricks leaving him unsteady afterward.
After the game, it certainly sounded as if Wilson was well aware of what Rutherford had said about him.
"I read the stuff that's said after last season and leading up to it," Wilson said. Yeah, I think it probably had to be done sooner or later, give [Oleksiak] a chance to defend his teammate after what happened last year. Obviously, you never want to see a guy go down like that. That's hockey. I respect him as a player, and it's unfortunate to see that."
The blood always seems to boil when the Caps and the Penguins meet. Oleksiak was traded and is no longer with the Penguins, but the hatred for Wilson in Pittsburgh likely shines no less bright than it would if the defenseman were still there. Will we see any more fisticuffs on Tuesday (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington) in the rivalry rematch?
The Caps have won seven straight games so it is no surprise that they again will be sticking with the same lineup. Should they extend the streak to eight games it will be a season-high.
Return of the Holtbeast
The one change from Sunday's lineup will be in net as Braden Holtby will get the start. Since the Caps returned from the All-Star break, Holtby is 9-4-1 with a .923 save percentage and 2.36 GAA.
Alex Ovechkin sits at 1,199 career points after being held without a point in the past two games. Remarkably, rival Sidney Crosby reached the 1,200 point mark just one week ago adding yet another reason why these two will forever be linked.
Et tu Hagelin?
Tuesday's game will mark the first for Carl Hagelin as a Cap against his former team. Hagelin won two Cups with the Penguins and certainly was a thorn in the side of Washington every time these two teams met in the postseason. It will be interesting to see the reception he receives from the Pittsburgh crowd given what he meant to the team.
Washington's cushion atop the Metropolitan Division is down to two points after the New York Islanders shutout the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday. A win for Washington will keep it just out of reach of the Islanders, but a loss will give New York a chance to pull even with it on Thursday when it hosts the Montreal Canadiens.
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