Are Capitals due for one this time?

PITTSBURGH — They meet again.

The Penguins open the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in Washington on Thursday evening, starting what has become an almost annual series between the rivals.

The only thing more predictable than Penguins-Capitals is the outcome. There have been 10 playoff series. The Penguins have won nine.

So before the perfunctory prediction, let’s get to some of the factors in this series:

n Goaltending. Can Matt Murray handle the load of a nigh intensity series against a quality opponent? There’s no Marc-Andre Fleury safety net this time, so it’s on Murray. He had mixed results against Philadelphia, but the final result in that series also speaks for itself.

n Evgeni Malkin. He missed the last game of the Flyers series with a lower body injury. The Penguins didn’t miss a beat. But sustaining offense could be a problem without Malkin’s talent. Injury information is strictly classified in hockey, especially in the playoffs, so we have no prognosis on Malkin. They need him.

n Alex Ovechkin. The Capitals’ star doesn’t have trouble scoring goals against the Penguins. He’s had a big comeback from a disappointing season last year, and he was good in the Capitals’ first-round series against Columbus. Can the Penguins questionable defense keep Ovechkin under control?

n Fatigue? The Penguins have played into June in the last two seasons. The wear and tear of that grind showed up at times in the regular season, but was not a factor in the Flyers series. The Capitals will play a physical game, guaranteed. It could take a toll during this series.

So, here’s what it looks like — the Penguins in seven games. But with these two talented teams, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see it go the limit and turn out in the Capitals’ favor.

They have to win one of these years, don’t they?

Changing channels

The season is over for the Penguins’ TV announcing team of Steve Mears and Bob Errey.

After the first round of the playoffs, all the games belong to NBC, which spreads them among its various channels.

The local announcers will continue on radio all the way through, so Mike Lange will be calling the games with Phil Bourque for as long as the Penguins last.

Mehno can be reached at