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Penguins notebook: Ryan Reaves dives into rivalry with Capitals with fight

Jonathan Bombulie
| Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, 7:15 p.m.
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 10: Ryan Reaves #75 of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Liam O'Brien #87 of the Washington Capitals fight during the first period at Capital One Arena on November 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 10: Ryan Reaves #75 of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Liam O'Brien #87 of the Washington Capitals fight during the first period at Capital One Arena on November 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — On Friday night, heavyweight Ryan Reaves officially joined the Penguins-Capitals rivalry.

Reaves was in the lineup the first time the teams met this season Oct. 11, but Tom Wilson and Liam O'Brien, Washington's most experienced fighters, did not play. Wilson was suspended, and O'Brien was in the AHL with Hershey.

This time, Wilson and O'Brien dressed, and there were fireworks.

After Reaves caught O'Brien with a hard hit in the first period, the pair fought. Reaves punched O'Brien to the ice, then pointed to the Capitals bench.

Wilson and Reaves are tied for second in the league with four fighting majors. Florida's Micheal Haley leads with five.

Before the game, Reaves said he wasn't expecting to scrap with any particular opponents.

“In Peoria and even the first two, three years in St. Louis, I'd look at their lineup,” Reaves said. “I'd go on YouTube right after warm-ups. I'd be looking at all their fights and what their techniques are. It's a little bit different now.

“I don't approach any games like that anymore. I go out and play my game, and the fights come to me. I'd rather be the aggressor and make guys have to come after me for my game on the ice.”

Coaching change

The Penguins didn't make any changes to their on-ice lineup after a 3-1 win over Arizona on Tuesday, but they did switch things up behind the bench.

With Mark Recchi in Toronto for the weekend for Hall of Fame inductions, Sergei Gonchar came down from the press box to assist Mike Sullivan and Jacques Martin at ice level. Gonchar performed 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.”

Injury report

Defenseman Matt Hunwick missed his 12th consecutive game with a concussion 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.”

Back-to-back blues

The Penguins will take another crack at playing on back-to-back days when they visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.

The Penguins are 0-4-1 on the tail end of back-to-backs this season, but their most recent attempt was their most successful. They had a 44-34 shots advantage in a 2-1 overtime loss to Calgary during their five-game western road trip.

Winger Carl Hagelin said the Calgary experience made the Penguins realize how important the first few minutes of the game are in back-to-back situations.

“I think it's just a matter of us playing smart off the bat,” Hagelin said. “Anytime we play back-to-back, try not to get scored on in the first three minutes or take a penalty.”

Milestone moment

Sidney Crosby became the third player in Penguins history to appear in 800 games with the team Friday night, joining Mario Lemieux (915) and Jaromir Jagr (806).

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

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