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Penguins notebook: Capitals different than in '09

Getty Images - The Penguins' Matt Niskanen (2) and the Capitals' Mikhail Grabovski battle for the puck during the first period Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Penguins' Matt Niskanen (2) and the Capitals' Mikhail Grabovski battle for the puck during the first period Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, in Washington.
Getty Images - The Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) scores a goal on the Capitals' Braden Holtby during the second period Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, in Washington.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) scores a goal on the Capitals' Braden Holtby during the second period Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, in Washington.

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, 8:45 p.m.
 

WASHINGTON — Penguins coach Dan Bylsma does not believe his old trick will work anymore against the Washington Capitals.

That trick: Allow Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin to get his goals — as Ovechkin did in a 2009 Stanley Cup playoff series, scoring eight — and force somebody else to beat the Penguins.

These Capitals, now in the same division with the Penguins, remain led by Ovechkin, who had scored 17 goals in 19 games before Wednesday. However, the Capitals are “playing differently” under coach Adam Oates than they were five years ago with Bruce Boudreau at the helm.

The Capitals were at 2.76 goals-allowed per game compared to 2.93 in 2008-09.

Another difference is the emergence of center Nicklas Backstrom as a trusted second scoring option compared to now-Carolina winger Alexander Semin, who was a less-consistent No. 2 to Ovechkin in 2009.

Seventh in overall scoring (24 points) as of Wednesday, Backstrom said he is comfortable operating outside the spotlight occupied by Ovechkin, who is second only to Penguins captain Sidney Crosby in NHL visibility.

Also, the addition of center Mikhail Grabovski, formerly of the Toronto Maple Leafs, has bolstered the Capitals' scoring depth. He had scored seven goals and produced 18 points.

“I really don't think it's just a one-man show with Alex Ovechkin, and they'll go how he goes,” Bylsma said. “It's a different team now.”

Go with it

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made his seventh consecutive start Wednesday and his 11th in 12 games. With 19 starts, he is on pace for a career-high 70 appearances.

Jeff Zatkoff has started only three times in 22 games.

Two years ago, on his way to a career-best 67 appearances, Fleury played in 16 of the Penguins' opening 22 games.

Hot spot

Penguins Radio Network broadcaster Phil Bourque and Penguins player development coach Bill Guerin are minority partners in the Blue Line Grille, a restaurant/lounge across the street from Consol Energy Center. A grand opening is scheduled for Thursday morning. Bourque, who played for the Cup-winning Penguins in 1991 and 1992, said Guerin convinced him to enter the risky world of arena-district development. He also cited a targeted upscale clientele, cross promotion with the Penguins and the rooftop bar as reasons for his belief in the project.

Around the boards

The Buffalo Sabres have started requesting permission to interview candidates for the general manager vacancy, but Penguins assistant general manager Jason Botterill was not in the mix as of late Tuesday.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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