In the Crease: Sharks begin road swing in Washington

In the Crease: Sharks begin road swing in Washington
January 14, 2014, 10:15 am
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Nicklas Backstrom (right) has more points on the season (48) than Alex Ovechkin (46), and has at least one point in 11 of his last 15 games. (USATSI)

Programming note: Sharks-Capitals coverage gets underway at 3:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live, only on Comcast SportsNet California

Where they stand
Sharks: 28-12-6, 62 points, 2nd Pacific Division, 4th Western Conference
Capitals: 22-16-7, 51 points, 2nd Metropolitan Division, 5th Eastern Conference

[RELATED: Sharks need road wins if they want to catch Ducks]

Vitals

Sharks
Goals per game: 3.06 (5th)
Goals-against per game: 2.41 (11th)
Power play: 19.1 percent (12th)
Penalty kill: 83.3 percent (11th)

Capitals
Goals per game: 2.84 (T - 8th)
Goals-against per game: 2.89 (20th)
Power play: 25.2 percent (2nd)
Penalty kill: 80.4 percent (18th)

Probable lines

Sharks
Joe Pavelski – Joe Thornton – Brent Burns
Matt Nieto – Patrick Marleau – Tommy Wingels
Bracken Kearns – Andrew Desjardins – Tyler Kennedy
Eriah Hayes – John McCarthy – Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Dan Boyle
Brad Stuart – Justin Braun
Scott Hannan – Jason Demers

Antti Niemi
Alex Stalock

Capitals
Eric Fehr – Mikhail Grabovski – Alex Ovechkin
Brooks Laich – Nicklas Backstrom – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Marcus Johansson – Joel Ward
Aaron Volpatti – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson

Karl Alzner – John Carlson
Dmitri Orlov – Mike Green
John Erskine – Connor Carrick

Philipp Grubauer
Braden Holtby

The latest

Sharks: Carl Soderberg scored the only goal in a 1-0 Bruins win over the Sharks at SAP Center on Saturday night. The loss was just the Sharks’ second in regulation at home (16-2-3), and was just the second time they’ve been shut out. Antti Niemi made 21 saves in the loss, as the Sharks have alternated wins and losses in their last eight games (4-4-0). The Sharks begin a three-game road trip tonight, continuing on to Florida and Tampa Bay.

[RELATED: Sharks mailbag: Looking for a scoring winger]

Capitals: Washington, which concludes a three-game homestand tonight, lost in a shootout to Buffalo on Sunday, 2-1. Jason Chimera scored the only Capitals goal, and Philipp Grubauer made 30 saves in net. The Capitals are 2-2-3 in their last seven games, but 2-0-1 in their last three.

Keep an eye on…

Sharks: Tyler Kennedy. It’s time for Kennedy to start producing. The forward will be playing in his second game since missing three games with the flu, and has just one assist in his last 17 games. Perhaps a matchup with an old Penguins rival will help to get his game going, as the Sharks desperately need more depth scoring with so many injuries up front.

Capitals: Nicklas Backstrom. The Capitals center actually has more points on the season (48) than Alex Ovechkin (46), and has at least one point in 11 of his last 15 games. Backstrom is third in the league with 37 assists, and has one goal and three assists in five career games against the Sharks.

Injuries/Scratches

Sharks: Tomas Hertl (right knee surgery), Marty Havlat (lower body), Raffi Torres (right knee surgery), Adam Burish (back surgery) and Logan Couture (right hand) are out. Matt Irwin (upper body) is questionable.

Capitals: Jack Hillen (right tibia surgery) is out.

Season/All-Time series

The Sharks are 21-9-1-0 all-time against Washington, have won their last five, and 16 of 17 overall (16-1-0). This is the first meeting since Feb. 12, 2012 at Verizon Center, a 5-3 Sharks win that included four points from Joe Pavelski.

The Capitals visit San Jose on March 22.

Quoteable

“They’re high scoring and fast and they have a lot of skill. You see all those highlights of Ovechkin scoring, so we understand we have to play a team game against them.” – Joe Pavelski

Burning question

Would you like to see more Sharks afternoon home games? Why or why not?

Leave your answer in the comments section below.