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Sidney Crosby, Nicklas Backstrom battling scoring slumps entering Penguins-Capitals game

Jonathan Bombulie
| Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, 1:00 p.m.
The Oilers' Adam Larsson and Connor McDavid (97) battle against the Penguins' Sidney Crosby on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, in Edmonton.
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The Oilers' Adam Larsson and Connor McDavid (97) battle against the Penguins' Sidney Crosby on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, in Edmonton.

WASHINGTON — As the top-line centers for a pair of bitter rivals, Sidney Crosby and Nicklas Backstrom have waged dozens of spirited head-to-head battles over the years.

This one, though, is a little different.

When the Penguins visit the Washington Capitals on Friday night, both Crosby and Backstrom will be fighting to put an end to long scoring slumps. Backstrom hasn't recorded a point in his last seven games. Crosby hasn't scored a goal in nine.

“When it's going like that, you just try to keep working for your chances,” Crosby said after morning skate Friday. “Eventually it turns and hopefully it comes in bunches. That's usually the way it works.

“On my side of things, I'd love to see it go in. Hopefully he can wait another game.”

Based on morning skate, it's likely the Penguins will not make any lineup changes coming off a 3-1 home victory over Arizona on Tuesday. Matt Murray is expected to start in goal.

There will be one change, however, behind the bench.

With Mark Recchi in Toronto for the weekend for Hall of Fame inductions, Sergei Gonchar will come down from the press box to assist Mike Sullivan and Jacques Martin at ice level. Gonchar will perform Recchi's usual duties, which include providing individual instruction to forwards and manning the bench's iPad.

“I think it will be good for Sergei to watch a game at ice level, not that he doesn't have extensive experience as a player,” Sullivan said. “He's seen a whole lot of hockey at that level, but it's been a little while. I think sometimes it's a whole different vantage point.”

Defenseman Matt Hunwick remains out with a concussion that was diagnosed Oct. 17. His recovery is taking longer than some of his teammates who have suffered concussions recently, but Sullivan said that is sometimes to be expected given the nature of the injury.

“The nature of concussions, and I think we all know this just from going through the process with different players, is that they're all very different,” Sullivan said. “They affect people differently. It's hard to really generalize or categorize players together or group players together as far as where they are going through the process. Everybody is unique. That's how we treat them. We're listening to our medical doctors and they're putting him through the process.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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