Sharks-Capitals: What to watch for

January 7, 2012, 8:49 pm
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SAN JOSE Now that NHL realignment has been postponed for at least a year, there are no guarantees that Alex Ovechkin will make an appearance here at HP Pavilion in the 2012-13 season.

The superstar Capitals forward is here tonight, though, and will try to help his team win in San Jose for the first time since 1993. Washington brings a four-game overall winning streak into the game, and Ovechkin has led the way with 11 points in his last seven games (7g, 4a), including four consecutive two-point efforts.

They have a number of superstars and you cant zero in on any on individual, although, hes the kingpin there, Todd McLellan said of Ovechkin on Saturday morning. Hes the guy that pulls the trigger and makes things happen.

The Sharks will likely try and get Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic out against Ovechkins line, which includes Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer as much as possible.

Its fun. I enjoy playing against the top guys. Ive said that before, Boyle said. He sees good matchups every night, so its nothing new for him. Hes playing real well right now so hopefully well get the job done defensively.

Ovechkins take: While the Sharks were busy talking about how dangerous Ovechkin is on the ice, the man himself knows that the Capitals have 10 losses and one tie since their last win at HP Pavilion, and have lost 14 of 15 overall since the start of the 1999-2000 season.

Its always nice to have a winning streak and you always want to continue what youre doing. But, its a hard building for us to play in and win here, in I dont know how many years, Ovechkin said. We just have to not think about it and play a little better than we played a couple years ago.

In seven career games against the Sharks, Ovechkin has four goals and two assists.

What do the Caps need to do to beat the Sharks?

We dont play a lot against these guys so we just have to play our game and play most of the time in their zone and not ours, because they have pretty good skilled guys and use our mistakes to get chances," Ovechkin said.

Mitchells return: Sharks forward Torrey Mitchell appears set to return tonight after a one-game absence. Mitchell was healthy-scratched on Thursday night in the Sharks 2-1 win over Columbus.

At Saturdays morning skate, he was on the wing with Michal Handzus and Jamie McGinn. McLellan explained what went down with the 26-year-old forward.

I talked to Torrey, and he gave me all the answers that I needed. He explained to me what his strengths were as a player and what his assets were that he thought he needed to bring to the table on a nightly basis, said the coach. It was a pretty simple conversation; I didnt even need to say anything. You have to give him credit for very good self-evaluation. Sometimes players dont see it like that.

The Sharks fourth line will likely be Brad Winchester, Andrew Desjardins and Tommy Wingels, making Andrew Murray the odd man out.

Niemi vs. Vokoun: After watching from the bench for the first time in more than a month, Antti Niemi will return tonight to face the Capitals. Thomas Greiss got the start and the win against Columbus on Thursday, after Niemi had started the previous 13 games.

In three games against Washington, Niemi is a solid 2-0-1 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.

While those numbers sound pretty darn good, Washington expected starter Tomas Vokouns run against the Sharks is even more impressive. In his last 11 starts against San Jose, Vokoun is 10-0-1 with a 2.14 goals-against average and .932 save percentage and one shutout. His last regulation loss against the Sharks came on Dec. 23, 2003 when he was still with the Nashville Predators.

Odds and ends: Washington forward Nicklas Backstrom is out with an injury. After tonight, 17 of the Sharks next 23 games are on the road. The Capitals have a 14 goal differential in the third period. Washington has nine 4-on-4 goals, the most in the NHL. Capitals defenseman John Carlson leads NHL defensemen with 44 giveaways. Brent Burns is second with 43. ... San Jose visits Washington on Feb. 13.