San Jose Sharks (3-2-1, 7 pts, 3rd in Pacific Division)
Washington Capitals (2-2-2, 6 pts, 2nd in Southeast Division)________________________________________________________
The San Jose Sharks make a rare appearance at Verizon Center for their first stop on a six-game eastern swing. For Washington, it's the middle game of a three-game home stand that got off to a disappointing start with a shootout loss to New Jersey, their fourth straight defeat.
The Sharks bring an exciting, fast paced offense -- quite similar to the home team -- backed by Evgeni Nabokov, one of the best in the business between the pipes.
Nabokov has had the Capitals number in his career, going 8-0-0 with a 1.98 GAA in eight career starts against Washington.
"It's great to have him back there," center Scott Nichol said of Nabokov (3-1-2, 2.68, .907 this season). "You know he's going to make the save."
The Sharks in general have had their way with the Caps in their history. San Jose has won six straight contests in the nation's capital, dating back to 1999, and 11 overall in the series.
San Jose is lead by veteran Joe Thornton (1-9-10, +1), one of the best set-up guys in the league, and newcomer Dany Heatley, acquired by the Sharks during pre-season from Ottawa. He and Patrick Marleau both have five goals in a quick start to the season.
Dan Boyle is the Sharks leader on defense, a good puck handler and capable in his own end.
"They have a tremendous offense," coach Bruce Boudreau told assembled media yesterday. "That's why they won the President's Trophy last year as the best team in the league. It's going to be a huge test.
Washington hopes to break a four-game skid, though they took a point away from two of the losses.
The Caps raced out of the box this season, scoring 10 goals in their first two games, but have struggled a bit offensively during the losing streak. Washington went zero-for-five on the power play Tuesday night, after managing one goal in nine tries last week versus New York.
"We've gone through a whole lot of units, whether it's Mike [Knuble] or Semin," Boudreau said. "The same thing happened last year, and then we caught on late in October and the power play was very good after that."
The Caps come in a bit banged up, as defenseman John Erskine was placed on IR, expected to miss three games. Forward Keith Aucoin was recalled, as center Boyd Gordon has been experiencing discomfort with his chronic back problem.
Jose Theodore, who has a .930 save percentage in his past four starts, will start tonight. Theodore is 6-6-0 with a 2.56 goals against average and .919 save percentage all-time against San Jose.
Scratches: Aucoin, Nylander, Schultz, Sloan
WAS: GF: 6th (22/3.67); GA: 21st (20/3.33); PP: 18th (6/29, 20.7%); PK: 13th (6/32, 81.2%)
SJ: GF: 11th (20/3.33); GA: 14th (17/2.83); PP: 12th (7/28, 25%): PK: 8th (5/30, 83.3%)
WAS: G: Ovechkin, Semin (5) A: Backstrom (8) P: Ovechkin (12) +/-: Ovechkin, Backstrom (+7)
SJ: G: Heatley (5) A: Thornton (9) P: Heatley, Thornton (10) +/-: Heatley, Demers (+3)
WAS: F Tomas Fleischmann (IR-leg), D John Erskine (IR-hand), F Boyd Gordon (DTD-back)
SJ: C Torrey Mitchell (IR-knee), C Joe Pavelski (out-foot)