Jan. 14 vs. San Jose Sharks at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio Network
San Jose Sharks (28-12-6)
Washington Capitals (22-16-7)
The Capitals conclude a three-game homestand on Tuesday night when the San Jose Sharks pay a call to Verizon Center. The Caps and Sharks are meeting for the first time since Feb. 13, 2012, a 5-3 San Jose victory here in Washington.
The Caps are coming in off a 2-1 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday afternoon. Washington grabbed an early 1-0 lead in that game on a goal from Jason Chimera, but Buffalo evened the score on a Tyler Ennis power-play goal in the 19th minute of the first frame.
That was it for the scoring in regulation and overtime, and for the second time in as many games against the Sabres, the Caps ended up on the short end of a 2-1 shootout decision. The Capitals have scored two goals on 79 shots in two games against the Sabres and Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller this season, and Miller has successfully shut down all nine of Washington’s shootout tries in those two games.
For Buffalo, the victory was just its fourth in 20 road games (4-14-2) this season and its first outside of western New York since Nov. 5. The Sabres scored fewer than two goals for the fifth time in their last six road games on Sunday, but still found a way to get two points.
“Based on the standings, for sure you want the points,” noted Caps coach Adam Oates after the game. “You want [them] every night. And we talk about it from day one that really in the season there are no easy games. You want to get points every single time you can because it will bite you later in the year. Yeah, we wanted two points, no question. Also, the way the game was going I’m glad we got one. I didn’t feel we had our good game.”
That Sunday setback to the Sabres ended the Caps’ modest winning run at two games. Washington has scored as many as four goals just once in its last nine games, that in a 4-3 win over the Lightning in Tampa Bay last Thursday.
Since they last strung together three wins in a row, the Caps have won just five of 14 games but they’ve taken points in 10 of those 14 (5-4-5). Going into Monday’s slate of NHL activity, the Capitals are tied for second place in the league’s Metropolitan Division. Washington is 16 points south of first-place Pittsburgh and only eight points clear of the eighth-place New York Islanders.
Tuesday’s game against the Sharks is the front end of a set of games on back-to-back nights. The Caps depart immediately after Tuesday’s game for a three-game road trip, the first game of which will be played in Pittsburgh against the Penguins on Wednesday night. Washington has swept four of its eight pairs of back-to-back games thus far this season.
Washington is 7-8-1 against Western Conference opponents this season. The Sharks are 9-4-2 against Eastern Conference foes in 2013-14, but San Jose is just 2-2-1 in five games against Metropolitan Division opponents.
Through 45 games this season, Washington has allowed the same number of goals (130) that it surrendered in the full, lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. The Caps finished 18th in the NHL in goals against last season; they’re 20th at this juncture in 2013-14.
With 128 goals of their own this season, the Capitals have been outscored by two tallies over 45 games to date. The Caps would need to net 18 goals in their next three games to meet last season’s total of 146 goals in 48 games. Washington has scored the same number of second-period goals (56) this season as it did last season when it shared the league lead with Winnipeg in that department, but the Caps are down five goals in the first period, 11 tallies in the third and two in overtime from last season’s totals in those frames.
Washington still has three goaltenders on its active roster. The three – Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and Michal Neuvirth – each got one start in succession from Jan. 4-10, with Grubauer also getting the start on Sunday against the Sabres. Grubauer has started 11 of the Caps’ last 16 games, posting a 6-2-4 record to go along with a 2.16 GAA and a .934 save pct.
This set of back-to-back games against the Sharks and Penguins finishes up a stretch in which Washington plays five games in seven nights. The schedule won’t let up much in the coming days and weeks; the Caps play 10 games in the final 18 nights of January. This Sharks-Penguins set is the first of three sets of games on back-to-back nights over that span. It won’t be difficult for the Caps to avail themselves of the services of two or even all three goaltenders, should they choose to do so.
San Jose’s season has had some peaks and valleys. The Sharks swam out to a swift 10-1-1 start, the dropped five straight (0-1-4). Another winning tear of 9-1 followed, and then a 2-5-1 tailspin.
The Sharks then won four of five to finish off the calendar 2013 portion of their season’s late, but they’ve alternated wins and losses since (3-3) despite allowing just a dozen goals against in their last half dozen games.
Most recently, San Jose came up on the short end of a 1-0 home ice setback on Saturday against the Boston Bruins. It was the first regulation shutout the Sharks have suffered on home ice since falling 1-0 to Miller and the Sabres in San Jose on March 1, 2012.
Thus far this season, the Sharks have scored 88 and surrendered 88 goals over the final 40 minutes of the team’s 46 games. But San Jose has proven adept at getting an early jump on the opposition this season, owning a 51-22 advantage in first-period goals.
No team in the NHL has more first-period goals than the Sharks. No team in the NHL has surrendered fewer first-period goals against than San Jose. The Sharks are outshooting opponents by a combined total of 560-401 in the first period of their games this season.
Heading into Monday night’s NHL activity, the Sharks are in second place in the Pacific Division, 13 points in arrears of Anaheim and three up on Los Angeles. San Jose is gunning for a 10th straight berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Sharks have exited the playoffs twice in the first round and four times in the second round while reaching the Western Conference final on three occasions in those nine straight playoff appearances.
San Jose has been plugging along despite having several key performers on the sidelines because of injury. The Sharks are currently without the services of five forwards: Adam Burish, Logan Couture, Marty Havlat, Thomas Hertl and Raffi Torres. Defenseman Matt Irwin is day-to-day with an upper body injury.
Notes: The Caps haven’t fared well against San Jose since the Sharks joined the NHL in 1991-92. Washington owns a 9-20-1-1 mark all-time against the Sharks and the Caps are 6-9-0-1 on home ice against San Jose. The Capitals are 1-15-1 in their last 17 games against San Jose, dating back to 1999.