Sharks back in Tank to take on Ovechkin, Caps

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Sharks back in Tank to take on Ovechkin, Caps

Feb. 17, 2011

WASHINGTON (30-18-10) vs.
SHARKS (31-21-6)

Coverage begins at 7 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

SAN JOSE (AP) -- A much-needed offensive breakout helped the Washington Capitals snap their latest skid. They will need all of the momentum earned from that victory to help win in San Jose for the first time in more than 17 years.

The Capitals look to end their woes in northern California on Thursday night while trying to avenge last week's home loss to the Sharks.

RELATED: Spotlight on the Capitals

Alexander Semin snapped a 17-game goal drought with his seventh career hat trick as Washington (30-18-10) ended a three-game losing streak with a 7-6 win at Anaheim.

"It could be a game that gets us out of the kind of spell we were in," said forward Mike Knuble, who also had a goal.

Semin recorded 18 goals with three hat tricks in the Capitals' first 25 games, but hadn't scored since Nov. 28, while missing 15 games with injuries.

Alex Ovechkin added a goal with an assist as the Capitals scored four more goals than they totaled the previous three contests. Washington has scored more than three goals three times in 22 games.

"It's good for us," said David Steckel, who found the back of the net for the first time since Dec. 26. "(There was) a little more sense of urgency."

The Capitals might need that same approach while trying for their first win at San Jose since Oct. 30, 1993. Washington has gone 0-9-0 with a tie on the road against the Sharks since then.

Ending that drought might be difficult if the Capitals can't improve play in their own zone. Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth each allowed three goals and combined for only 15 saves while getting little help up front Wednesday.

Washington hopes to put forth a similar defensive effort, but with more offense than it displayed during a 2-0 home loss to the Sharks (31-21-6) on Feb. 8. Ovechkin and Semin combined for seven shots, but the Capitals lost for the 13th time in 14 games to San Jose.

Ovechkin, however, has a goal and an assist in his last two games at San Jose. Semin has just one goal in five career games against the Sharks.

Currently fifth in the crowded Western Conference, San Jose is 10-2-1 following a six-game losing streak.

Patrick Marleau scored at 3:53 of overtime to lift the Sharks to a 2-1 win over Nashville on Tuesday. That helped San Jose avoid a third straight loss and go 5-2-0 on a season-high seven-game road trip.

REWIND: Marleau's OT goal ends road trip on a high note

Though Marleau has three goals and two assists his last four games overall, he's been held without a point in three straight versus Washington.

Devin Setoguchi, who has a goal and three assists in four games against the Capitals, also scored Tuesday to snap a three-game stretch without a point.

"I thought Setoguchi played one of his better games in a long time," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said.

Antti Niemi stopped 30 shots against the Predators, and has a 1.57 GAA while winning five of seven. He made 25 saves and recorded his fourth shutout of the season at Washington last week.

REWIND: Niemi backstops 2-0 win over Capitals

San Jose's Logan Couture became the first rookie with seven game-winning goals on the road in one season last week against the Capitals. He's been held to one assist in four games since then.

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

SAN FRANCISCO -- At some point over the next four days, Madison Bumgarner will pick up a baseball, stand a few feet across from a member of the training staff, and simply play catch. It'll be a huge step in Bumgarner's rehab, and should it go well, a boost to the psyche of a struggling team.

In the meantime, another lefty is making sure the Giants don't suffer too much without their ace, as improbable as that first seemed.

Ty Blach took a shutout into the eighth Saturday night and in true Bumgarner fashion, he added a pair of hits and an RBI. The Giants beat the Braves 6-3. They've won Blach's past three starts, and even with a 10-run outing in Cincinnati mixed in, he has a 3.71 ERA since taking the spot left open by a dirt bike accident.

"Because of what happened he's in the rotation," manager Bruce Bochy said, "And he's taking full advantage."

Blach has shown that long term, he might be a big part of this rotation. It's been years since the Giants locked a young, cost-controlled starter in, and Blach has backed up his big cameo last year. It's possible -- likely even -- that at some point the Giants will need to trade a veteran, perhaps Johnny Cueto, for young bats. Blach provides needed insurance. 

Short term, he's providing a huge boost to a team that doesn't have much going right. Blach has thrown at least seven innings in his past four starts. He has allowed just eight earned runs in four starts since the one in Cincinnati, throwing 28 2/3 innings. 

"I feel good," Blach said. "I've always been a starter, so it's been a pretty easy transition to make. I feel comfortable."

The Giants are comfortable behind him, as evidenced by a half-dozen strong defensive plays Saturday. 

"He's been consistent and he works quickly," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He's just a great guy to play behind."

Blach even joined in at the plate. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat -- his first big league hit off Not Clayton Kershaw -- and later roped another single. Blach even showed off his wheels, busting it from first to third on Denard Span's ball to the corner before Phil Nevin held him up. 

"I worked into some good counts and I was able to get fastballs," Blach said of his night at the plate. "It's definitely a big confidence booster when your spot comes up and you're able to drive in runs."

The night was straight out of Bumgarner's playbook, and it was needed. The Giants had dropped five of six, but Blach was backed by homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt. It got a little hairy late, but the bullpen held on, clinching Blach's third win of the season. He looks poised for many more, and Bochy is happy to keep running him out there.

"I'm not surprised by what he's doing," the manager said.

 

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — This spot in the rotation is the one reserved for the stopper, the pitcher who takes a game by the throat when his team really needs it. 

Ty Blach took the mound Saturday for a team that had lost five of six, and just as Madison Bumgarner often has, Blach ended the skid. The young lefty was dominant into the eighth and the bats finally provided enough support. The Giants won 6-3, tying this weekend series with the Braves.

Here are five things to know from a night we were reminded that Emilio Bonifacio is in the big leagues … 

--- Blach pitched 7 2/3 innings. He has thrown at least seven innings in his last four starts, and five of seven starts overall. Jeff Samardzija (6) is the only Giants starter who has gone that deep more often. Blach is tied with Johnny Cueto for second-most seven-inning starts on staff, and Cueto has made three additional starts. 

--- Blach’s RBI single in the fourth was -- at the time -- the fourth hit of his career, and the first against a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. The ball had an exit velocity of 101 mph. Blach tried to score from first on Denard Span’s double, but Phil Nevin held him. Still, the way he was moving, it makes you wonder if Samardzija really is Bruce Bochy’s best pitcher-pinch-running option. In the seventh, Blach picked up a second single. 

--- Blach’s only bad start has been the one he made in Cincinnati, where the Giants played like a Double-A team. If you take that one out, Blach has a 2.21 ERA since taking over Bumgarner’s rotation spot. 

--- Even though he gave up just two earned in 7 2/3, Blach’s home ERA actually went up. It’s 1.75, which ranks seventh in the National League. The sellout crowd gave Blach a standing ovation when he was pulled in the eighth. 

--- Blach had a season-high five strikeouts. When he got Nick Markakis to end the first, Blach ended a streak of 37 left-handers faced without a strikeout. He later struck out another lefty, Matt Adams. The new Braves first baseman came up as the tying run in the eighth but Derek Law got him to ground out to first. 

--- Bonus sixth “thing to know” ... on Blach of course: His first name is Tyson, not Tyler. It’s Tyson Michael Blach.