Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals host the San Jose Sharks on Sunday afternoon for the second and final regular-season meeting between the two teams. The Capitals crushed the Sharks by a score of 5-2 at SAP Center on December 3 the first time they met to extend their point-streak against them to five games (4-0-1). Action from Capital One Arena can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 12:30 PM ET.
The Sharks continue a five-game road trip, which is tied for their longest this season, on Sunday afternoon in the District. After opening the trip by getting shut out by the Detroit Red Wings, the worst team in the NHL, by a score of 2-0, the Sharks defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 in a shootout on Thursday before ending the Columbus Blue Jackets’ 12-game point-streak (8-0-4) with a 3-2 victory on Saturday. They will play their second game in less than 24 hours when the puck drops on Sunday.
The Sharks may have won their last two but still sit in the basement of the Western Conference a season after they took the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues to Game 6 of the Western Conference Final. Their -28 goal differential is the worst in the Western Conference and they sit eight points back of the Edmonton Oilers for third in the Pacific Division with a game in hand. After heading into the NHL’s holiday break with three consecutive regulation losses, the Sharks have points in four of their last five games, going 3-1-1 in that span.
Captain Logan Couture leads the Sharks with 34 points in 43 games this season but has just one goal in his last five games and two in his last eight. Since recording six goals and 14 points during a 10-game span in November, the 30-year old has just five goals and six points in 15 games. Forward Tomas Hertl leads the Sharks with 15 goals this season but has just one in his last seven, which followed a three-game goal-streak where he netted four. Defenseman Erik Karlsson leads San Jose with 25 assists but has just a goal and two points in six games since a three-game assist streak, where he tallied three.
The Sharks’ 88.1% penalty-killing rate is the best in the NHL this season but their 14.8% power-play efficiency is the fifth-worst. Their average of 2.63 goals-per-game is the sixth-lowest in the league while their average of 3.30 goals-against per game is the seventh-most. The Sharks’ average of 29.1 shots-per-game is tied with the Minnesota Wild for the fourth-lowest in the league but their average of 30.2 shots-against per game is tied with the Capitals for the seventh-fewest.
After goaltender Aaron Dell made 21 saves in the Sharks’ 3-2 win in Columbus on Saturday afternoon, Martin Jones, who is 13-15-1 with an .893 save percentage and a 3.13 goals-against average this season, will get the net against the Capitals on Sunday. In nine career games against the Capitals, the 29-year old has gone 5-4-0 with a .904 save percentage, a 2.79 goals-against average, and two shutouts. He made 23 saves in the Sharks’ 5-2 loss to the Capitals last month, his fourth loss in his last five tries against them. Jones has allowed at least four goals in all but one of those starts.
The Capitals return home to start a short two-game homestand and continue a stretch where they play 11 of 16 games at Capital One Arena after a 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh on Friday night. They are 11-4-4 at home this season. Before losing 4-3 to the New York Islanders on Tuesday in their last home game, the Capitals had won three consecutive home games and five out of their previous seven (5-1-1) there.
The Capitals’ win over the Hurricanes on Friday night snapped the team’s first two-game regulation losing streak this season. Since sweeping a four-game road trip at the beginning of December, which included the 5-2 win in San Jose, the Capitals are 6-5-0. They still entered Saturday leading the NHL with 61 points this season, two more than the Boston Bruins and seven than the New York Islanders for first in the Metropolitan Division.
Defenseman John Carlson, who posted an assist against the Hurricanes on Friday, is 10th in scoring in the NHL and first among defensemen with 51 points in 42 games this season. His 38 assists are fifth while his +15 rating is tied for the 15th-best in the NHL this season. A -4 outing against the Islanders certainly didn’t help him climb the rankings though. Since recording three goals and six points in three games to begin the month of December, the 29-year old has posted just two goals, eight points, and a -5 rating in 11 games. Captain Alex Ovechkin’s 24 goals this season are tied for fifth. He has two goals and five points during a five-game point streak, though he has a -9 rating in that span, and three goals and seven points in his last seven. Center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who has four goals and six points during a four-game point-streak, missed Saturday’s practice due to illness and will be a game-time decision. Center Lars Eller took his spot on the second-line during practice on Saturday while center Travis Boyd drew in for Eller on the third.
The Capitals’ average of 3.50 goals-per-game this season is the fifth-highest in the league while their average of 2.93 goals-against per game is 10th. They have scored at least three goals in their past three games and in 13 of their last 16 games. Their 22.1% power-play efficiency is 11th while their 84.2% penalty-killing rate is third. The Capitals have averaged 31.8 shots-per-game this season, which is 13th in the league.
Goaltender Braden Holtby, who is 17-7-4 with a .902 save percentage and a 2.99 goals-against average this season, will start against the Sharks on Sunday. He has allowed at least four goals in three straight games, all regulation losses, while allowing 13 goals on 61 shots in the process (.786 save percentage). In 10 career starts against the Sharks, the 30-year old has gone 4-4-1 with an .881 save percentage and a 3.60 goals-against average. He has allowed 20 goals in his last five appearances against the Sharks at home, going 0-3-1 in that span.
- When the Capitals host the Sharks, it will mark the 10-year anniversary of Ovechkin’s first game as captain (Jan. 5, 2010 vs. Montreal Canadiens); currently, Ovechkin is the second longest-tenured captain in franchise history behind Rod Langway (Langway: Oct. 5, 1982 through Feb. 9, 1993; 10 years, 130 days), and the fifth-longest tenured captain in the NHL (Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, named on Oct. 3, 2006; Penguins center Sidney Crosby, May 31, 2007; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews, July 18, 2008; Minnesota Wild forward Mikko Koivu, Oct. 20, 2009)
- Carlson enters Sunday’s game three assists shy of passing Peter Bondra (353) for the eighth-most assists in franchise history
- The Capitals have recorded five power-play goals on 16 opportunities (31.3%) in four games since the Christmas break
- The Capitals (42 games) required the second-fewest games in franchise history to reach the 60-point benchmark, tying the 2016-17 team behind the 2015-16 squad (39)
- Holtby has allowed two goals or fewer in 12 of his 29 games this season, with the Capitals posting a record of 11-0-1 in those games
By Harrison Brown