Photo: Don Smith/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals visit the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night for the first of two meetings between the teams this season. The Capitals went 1-0-1 against the Sharks last year, including a 5-1 win in San Jose on February 14, and are 3-0-1 against them in the last two seasons. In addition, they have won four of their last six visits to the Shark Tank after not getting a win there for 21 years. Action from SAP Center can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 10:30 PM ET.
The Capitals continue their four-game road trip out west after snagging a 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night. They are 11-2-1 on the road this season and have won nine of their last 11 (9-1-1) away from Capital One Arena. The Capitals also begin a set of back-to-backs as the Los Angeles Kings await them on Wednesday night. They are 5-1-2 in back-to-backs this season but only 2-1-1 in the first game of such situations.
Captain Alex Ovechkin’s three-game goal-streak, including a hat trick against the Red Wings, powered him to second in the NHL in that category with 20 markers behind only Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak’s 24. During the streak, he has tallied five goals and seven points. Defenseman John Carlson’s 25 assists this season are currently tied with Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon for third in the league while his 37 points rank sixth. In addition, his +16 rating is tied for fifth.
The Capitals enter Tuesday night’s game riding a three-game winning streak, which followed a short two-game slide (0-1-1). During their streak, they have scored 13 goals, and their average of 3.61 goals-per-game ranks fourth in the league. They have also trimmed their goals-against lately as their average of 2.89 per game is tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Vegas Golden Knights for 11th in the league. Their 25.3% power-play efficiency ranks fifth while their 83% penalty-killing rate is 12th.
Center Nicklas Backstrom, who has missed the past five games with a lower-body injury, and forward Carl Hagelin, who has missed the past 11 due to an upper-body injury, could both return against the Sharks on Tuesday night. Hagelin has been cleared to play after skating in a regular practice jersey for the past week. Backstrom began skating in a no-contact jersey late last week and head coach Todd Reirden stated that he could return in San Jose as well.
Goaltender Braden Holtby, who is 13-2-4 with a .909 save percentage and a 2.86 goals-against average this season, will start for the Capitals in San Jose on Tuesday night. In nine career games against the Sharks, the 30-year old is 3-4-1 with an .877 save percentage and a 3.79 goals-against average. He made 61 saves on 69 shots in two games against the Sharks last season, including a 25-save performance in the Capitals’ 5-1 win in San Jose.
After falling to the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues in six games in the Western Conference Final last season, the Sharks got off to a 7-10-1 start but have won two straight and eight out of their last 10 to climb into the third spot in the Pacific Division standings. The Sharks wrap up a home-heavy stretch, where they played 11 of their 15 games in November, before heading east for four straight games. They are 9-6-0 at SAP Center this season but are 7-2-0 in their past nine after dropping three straight in regulation at the beginning of November.
Captain Logan Couture, who led the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 14 goals and was third with 20 points in 20 games, leads the Sharks with 20 assists and 28 points in 28 games this season. The 30-year old has three goals in his past two games and seven goals and 18 points in his last 12 games after a four-game point drought in early November. Forward Evander Kane leads the Sharks with 12 goals this season but has gone eight games without one.
Despite having Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson on their blueline, the Sharks’ average of 3.25 goals-against per game is the eighth-highest in the NHL this season. After their average of 3.52 goals-per-game was second in the league last season, they are averaging only 2.86 this season, which is tied with the Golden Knights for 18th. Where the Sharks have shined this season is on the penalty kill as their 91% efficiency is the best in the league. Their average of 28.9 shots-per-game is tied with the Edmonton Oilers for 29th in the league, ahead of only the New York Islanders (28.3). However, their average of 30 shots-against per game is the seventh-fewest. The Sharks’ .8807 save percentage is currently the lowest in the league.
The Sharks added defenseman Dalton Prout, who has played only two games this season including one since opening night, over the offseason while they lost three of their top forwards in captain Joe Pavelski (20 goals and 60 points in each of the last nine seasons) , who signed a three-year contract with the Dallas Stars; Joonas Donskoi, who signed a three-year contract with the Colorado Avalanche; and Gustav Nyquist, who signed a four-year contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets. In October, they did sign forward Patrick Marleau, who has six goals and 11 points in 24 games this season. In addition, they lost top-four defenseman Justin Braun in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers. Altogether, the Sharks saw 60 goals (around 21% of their production) from last season walk out the door.
Goaltender Martin Jones, who is 12-8-1 with a .896 save percentage and a 3.03 goals-against average this season, is expected to get the nod against the Capitals on Tuesday night. He is currently riding a four-game winning-streak where he has posted a .941 save percentage and has allowed only seven goals. In eight career games against the Capitals, the 29-year old is 5-3-0 with a .917 save percentage, a 2.40 goals-against average, and two shutouts. Though, he allowed 10 goals on 67 shots (.851 save percentage) in two games against the Capitals last season.
- Ovechkin enters Tuesday night one power-play goal shy of passing Teemu Selanne (255) for the third-most power-play goals in NHL history
- The Capitals’ four regulation losses mark the fewest in franchise history through October and November (previous record, five in 2009-10 and 2015-16)
- All 12 of forward Jakub Vrana’s goals have come at even strength, which is tied for the fourth-most in the NHL
By Harrison Brown