Sharks assistant Johnson knows Capitals well

Sharks assistant Johnson knows Capitals well
January 14, 2014, 1:00 pm
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Assistant coach Jim Johnson (left), is returning to his former team's arena for the first time since leaving the Capitals organization. (USATSI)

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

The last time the Sharks faced Washington, nearly two years ago in San Jose, one of their current assistant coaches was behind the bench for the Capitals.

Jim Johnson, now in his second year on Todd McLellan’s staff, is returning to his old home for the first time since switching coasts when the Sharks and Capitals meet on Tuesday night in the nation's capital.

[RELATED: In the Crease: Sharks start three-game road swing in Washington]

“I have great memories here from a couple years ago [under Dale Hunter] and as a player [1994-96],” said Johnson, who has also been an assistant coach in Tampa Bay and Phoenix. “It’s a great organization. We know coming into the building it’ll be a tough game, but it’s always good to come back to D.C.”

Adam Oates, who is in his second season behind Washington’s bench, has since replaced Hunter. Johnson, a former defenseman, spent parts of three seasons as a player for the Capitals in a 13-year NHL career.

What does Johnson expect from the Capitals?

“They’re real offensive, there’s no doubt about that, and I know those offensive players. They really get up the ice quick from the back end. They have guys who can jump in the rush.”

The Capitals’ power play is potent, featuring Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin on the top unit. It’s currently in second in the NHL with a 25.2 percent success rate.

The Sharks have been the NHL’s best team in terms of staying out of the box, and have been shorthanded fewer times than any team in the league (120). That could be the biggest key to Tuesday’s game, as Johnson, who helps to coach the Sharks’ penalty kill, can attest to.

“Not many teams have stopped [Washington’s power play]. It’s pretty powerful,” Johnson said. “You’ve got to get a save from your goaltender. It’s the best power play in the league, and we know that and there are many options.

“You’ve got Ovechkin, you’ve got Backstrom, you’ve got [Marcus] Johansson, you’ve got Troy Brouwer in the slot for the down-and-in play. We’ve got to stay out of the box, and be disciplined against this team because there’s not too many teams that have had success against them.”