Sharks-Caps: What to watch for

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Sharks-Caps: What to watch for

Programming Note: Catch NHL Live at 4 p.m. followed by the Sharks vs. Washington Capitals at 4:30 p.m., tonight on NBC Sports Network!

WASHINGTON, DC The Sharks road trip began with a thud on Sunday night in St. Louis with a 3-0 loss to the Blues. They play game two of the nine-game trip right away, tonight in Washington.In direct contrast to previous seasons, San Jose has struggled away from HP Pavilion this year, losing as many as it has won (12-8-4). The Capitals have been downright miserable on the road, including a 3-2 loss in New York on Sunday, but are 19-7-2 in one of the louder buildings in the NHL the Verizon Center.
Thomas Greiss, who figures to get more playing time as the Sharks have three back-to-backs on this road trip alone, will start in net opposing Washingtons Michal Neuvirth.The Sharks are 4-2-1 in the second half of back-to-backs this season.RELATED: Sharks scheduleresults
Inconsistency since the break: The Sharks looked like they might be hitting their stride immediately following the All-Star break, with convincing wins over Columbus and Dallas. Since then, theyve dropped three of four in regulation and their lead in the Pacific Division is down to a single point over Los Angeles (albeit with four games in hand).The Sharks would love to put Sundays loss in St. Louis behind them immediately, and tonights game against the Caps gives them that opportunity. One aspect of their game that was absent against the Blues was the power play, which was 10-for-22 in the previous eight games, scoring at least once in seven of those.The Capitals own the 22nd ranked penalty kill in the league at 81.0 percent, but its 12th in the NHL at home (85.2 percent).One positive that the Sharks can take from the loss to the Blues is that they were strong defensively five-on-five. St. Louis scored a pair of goals with a two-man advantage and an empty net marker late.More on the goalies: Greiss has never faced the Capitals in his career, as it was Antti Niemi in net on Jan. 7 when the Sharks claimed a 5-2 win over Washington at HP Pavilion. His number this season are outstanding with a 7-4-1 record, 1.98 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.Neuvirth, who took the loss at Madison Square Garden yesterday, will make his second straight start as Tomas Vokoun is recovering from the flu. The young netminder is not having a very good year, with a GAA of 3.07 and SP of .894.Against the Sharks, hes even worse, with 0-3-0 record, 3.37 GAA and .897 SP.Caps on the outside: Washington, a preseason favorite once again to compete for the Stanley Cup, sits in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. Thats one point out of a playoff spot, and four points behind the Southwest Division-leading Florida Panthers.Injuries to key players like Mike Green (sports hernia) and Nicklas Backstrom (concussion) have not helped, and neither is ready to return to the lineup yet. Alex Ovechkin leads the Capitals in scoring but is having another decidedly average season, by his standards. In fact, Ovechkin and Logan Couture have the same exact stat line with 23 goals and 21 assists each. Couture is a 8, while Ovechkin is a -6.Odds and ends: Alex Semin has three goals and three assists in his last five games. Joe Thornton has two goals and five assists in the last five games Logan Couture, who had an eight-game scoring streak snapped last night, has five goals and seven assists in his last nine games.

In push for playoffs, LA Kings acquire goalie Bishop from Tampa Bay

In push for playoffs, LA Kings acquire goalie Bishop from Tampa Bay

The Los Angeles Kings have acquired goaltender Ben Bishop in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Los Angeles sent Peter Budaj, defensive prospect Erik Cernak, a 2017 seventh-round pick and a conditional pick to Tampa Bay for Bishop and a 2017 fifth-round pick.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman announced the trade Sunday night, less than four days before the trade deadline.

Bishop, a pending unrestricted free agent, helped the Lightning reach the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. The Kings now have Bishop and 2012 and 2014 Cup winner Jonathan Quick, who returned Saturday from a long-term lower-body injury that had sidelined him since October.

The 6-foot-7 Bishop, 30, is 16-12-3 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .911 save percentage.

Three takeaways: Sharks stand up for Karlsson; avoiding the mumps

Three takeaways: Sharks stand up for Karlsson; avoiding the mumps

VANCOUVER – It was a successful first game coming out of the bye week for the Sharks, as they won going away against the Canucks at Rogers Arena on Saturday, 4-1. Here are our three takeaways from the evening in British Columbia…

1 – Slow start, strong finish

The league-wide trend of starting slow coming out of the NHL’s newly instituted bye week was on display in the first period, as the Sharks and Canucks played one of the uglier frames of NHL hockey you’ll ever see. San Jose was on its heels early, surrendering the first six shots of the game and looking particularly confused. They didn’t register a single hit in the period, either, which is hard to do.

The Sharks were lucky that Vancouver wasn’t much better, and that Martin Jones – whose performance we focused on in primary the game recap – was looking sharp and well rested.

The message after the scoreless first period, according to coach Pete DeBoer, was just to “try and get better.” That’s what happened.

“We knew it would be a little messy, and it was,” DeBoer said. “Jonesy thankfully was our best player, and gave us a chance to get our legs under us. I thought as the game wore on we got better and better. It wasn’t a pretty win, by any means.”

Chris Tierney said: “After the first 10 minutes [we] started to feel good and then kind of felt back to normal in the second there. It definitely took a little bit. Joner bailed us out in the beginning a couple times. I thought we started to get going in the second and third.”

2 – Standing up for Karlsson

Melker Karlsson was lucky to return in the third period after he took a heavy hit from Joseph Labate. Karlsson had to be helped to the dressing room after the blow, when his head violently snapped back as Labate ran him into the boards in front of the bench.

Micheal Haley pounced on Labate immediately after the incident, earning a two-minute minor that the team was probably happy to kill off. Labate, to his credit, answered the bell in the third period when he was challenged by and fought Brenden Dillon. The Sharks will face the Canucks three more times this season, including on Thursday, so a response to the hit was particularly necessary even if it was clean.

“That sends a good message to the team that everybody has each other’s back,” Mikkel Boedker said of Haley and Dillon’s efforts. “Those guys are real standup guys, and they’ve done it so many times. Every time they do it, it means something special to all of us.”

DeBoer said: “That’s a huge part of our team and our team identity. We’ve got a group that you’re not going to be able to push to of games, and I think we’ve shown that over the last two years here. You don’t even have to say anything, that’s just automatic.”

3 – Avoiding the mumps

Some eyebrows were raised in the press box midway through the game when the Canucks tweeted that defenseman Luca Sbisa would not return with the stomach flu. That’s one of the early warning signs of the mumps, meaning Sbisa could have exposed some Sharks to the virus, which is making its way through the Vancouver dressing room.

“What are you going to do? We’ve just got to cross our fingers and get outta here and hope that he didn’t rub up against anybody,” DeBoer said.

The Sharks coach said after the game that he thought “most of our guys” have had vaccinations, but “I believe there’s a couple that haven’t.”

After the virus invaded several NHL dressing rooms two seasons ago, the Sharks’ training staff will likely be on the lookout for symptoms when the team reconvenes on Monday. Hopefully, the outbreak will begin and end in Vancouver this time.

“Definitely, you want to make sure that you stay away from all that stuff,” Boedker said.