Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sharks Skate Into Chinatown

One of the better October tilts takes place Thursday at Verizon Center, as last year's Western Conference regular-season top seed makes its only visit to Washington on the season, as the Capitals will battle the Sharks.

The game features a pair of dynamic teammates going head-to-head, as while Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have combined for 22 points, new Shark Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton have combined for 20 points in the young season.

Although San Jose was blanked in a 1-0 shootout loss to Phoenix Monday, Jose Theodore still figures to be busy in what's expected to be his fourth straight start since relieving Semyon Varlamov in Philadelphia 10 days ago.

Washington is looking to bounce back from an 0-2-2 skid, and despite blowing a 2-0 lead against the Devils, Bruce Boudreau was happier with the team's effort than he had been in the team's previous three losses. However, he put the Caps through a rigorous practice on Wednesday, even calling out players for a lack of effort during the workout, perhaps as a motivator against one of the West's top clubs.

John Erskine, who left Monday's game with the generic "upper-body injury" didn't skate and is expected to miss the game against the Sharks, although that allows the Caps a chance to insert a little more speed - although less toughness - in the lineup.

The last time the two teams met, it was a pretty ugly affair for Washington, as coming off a rough game where they lost Mike Green in Anaheim two nights earlier, the Sharks jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and didn't look back in a 7-2 thumping at the Shark Tank. The now-departed Brent Johnson went the entire way, stopping only 21 of 28 shots put on him, while Brian Boucher had a light night facing just 21 Capitals shots.

The Caps also haven't tasted a win against San Jose in a decade, with their last win coming February 20, 1999, going 0-10-1 since, with the lone point coming in the Sharks' last visit to Verizon Center in 2007 with a 3-2 shootout loss.

Alex Ovechkin hasn't had a lot of success against the Sharks either, recording just one point in three games against them, picking up an assist on Tomas Fleischmann's third-period tally in last year's blowout. San Jose is also the only NHL team that has kept the the two-time Hart Trophy winner from lighting the lamp, and the Sharks are one of two teams (Colorado is the other) that he has just a single point against during his career.

It's certainly not an easy team for Washington to climb back into the win column against, as the team certainly is dangerous if the Caps continue to allow some of the chances they've allowed in the last couple of games.

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