NHL Gameday: Sharks open homestand with marquee matchup vs Caps

NHL Gameday: Sharks open homestand with marquee matchup vs Caps

Programming note – Sharks-Capitals coverage starts today at 7:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California


Sharks: 39-19-7, 85 points, 1st Pacific Division
Capitals: 44-14-7, 95 points, 1st Metropolitan Division


***In perhaps the biggest challenge the Sharks have faced all season, the league-leading Capitals will make their only regular season appearance at SAP Center. Washington has slowed a bit since its bye week, going 5-3-1, but remains five points ahead of Columbus and Minnesota for most points in the NHL with 95.

The Sharks are also comfortably in first place, seven points ahead of second place Edmonton and Anaheim with a game in hand. It’s the second time in three games the Sharks are playing one of the NHL’s best teams, after they dropped a 3-1 decision in Minnesota on Sunday.

“Any time you face a team like this, it’s a good measurement for you on where you’re at,” Pete DeBoer said. “We like to feel we can compete with those teams, so it’s a great challenge for us. Our group, typically in the time I’ve been here, has risen to the occasion against teams like this. I expect that tonight.”

Marc-Edouard Vlasic said: “You look at their lineup, they’ve got four lines that can score. Their fourth line can contribute offensively just as good as any other line in the league. They’ve got a lot of depth, and on the back end too they’ve got a lot of guys that can create offense.”

***One player in particular that knows Sharks well is defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who was a part of the Blues squad that lost to San Jose in last season’s Western Conference Final. He’s looking forward to seeing how his new team matches up with the Sharks.

“These are some of those matchups in-season that you really gear up for,” Shattenkirk said. “I’ve been able to play a lot of meaningful games against these guys in recent years, and we know how well they play at home. … It’s going to be a physical game. They like to forecheck as well pretty hard and throw their weight around, and we have to be ready for that.”

The Sharks have had tremendous success over the Capitals over the years, with a 25-3-3 mark in the last 31 meetings, including a 3-0 shutout on Nov. 8 at Verizon Center. In San Jose, the Sharks are 12-0-3 in the last 15, having not lost in regulation since Oct. 30, 1993.

***The Sharks are opening up a season-long six game homestand tonight. They are 20-7-4 at SAP Center this season, already eclipsing their win total from last season (17).

“Our home game is pretty good right now,” Vlasic said. “Never look too far ahead because you get away from yourself, but we’ve got some important home games that we’d like to take care of to hopefully get home ice advantage [in the playoffs].”

***Alex Ovechkin will be looking to break out of a 15-game drought with no even strength goals, one off his career long. The Capitals superstar has seven goals and 12 points in 15 career games against San Jose.

***Joe Thornton will be recognized in a pregame ceremony for notching his 1,000th career assist in Winnipeg on Monday.

Sharks: Jannik Hansen. Nine days after a trade brought him to San Jose, Hansen will make his debut against Washington on the top line. The circumstances won’t be easy, as Hansen has played just one game since Feb. 20 (coincidentally, against the Sharks while still with Vancouver), and against the best team in the league. But he’ll have a chance to give that top line a boost, after seven others have skated in that spot over the course of the season.

Capitals: Kevin Shattenkirk. The newest Capitals defenseman joined the Blues after playing in St. Louis for parts of six seasons. The 28-year-old – whom the Sharks were interested in acquiring themselves in previous years – has 44 points this season (11g, 33a) in 65 games, and 16 points (5, 11a) in 20 career games against San Jose. He has two assists in a minus-two rating in four games with Washington.


Jannik Hansen – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Joonas Donskoi – Tomas Hertl – Melker Karlsson
Micheal Haley – Chris Tierney – Joel Ward

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – Dylan DeMelo

Martin Jones (starter)
Aaron Dell

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams
Brett Connolly – Lars Eller – Jakub Vrana
Daniel Winnik – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson

Karl Alzner – John Carlson
Dmitri Orlov – Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik – Kevin Shattenkirk

Braden Holtby (starter)
Philipp Grubauer


Sharks: David Schlemko (lower body) is out.

Capitals: Andre Bruakovsky (hand) is out.


“From the outside before I showed up, it seemed like a team that had a lot of fun coming to the rink. Winning obviously does a lot for that as well, and they have done a lot of that.” – Jannik Hansen

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights


SAN JOSE -- Seconds after almost costing the San Jose Sharks a game with a turnover, Logan Couture ended it with his backhand.

Couture scored 39 seconds into overtime after getting bailed out by goalie Martin Jones and the San Jose Sharks won their season-high sixth straight game, 2-1 over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night.

"I was able to make a move on their guy," Couture said. "(Marc-Edouard Vlasic) did a good job of driving their backchecker back and I was able to go far side."

Couture's goal came at the end of an opening shift of the overtime that started with him losing the puck in his own zone, giving Jonathan Marchessault a chance alone in front. Jones got enough of the shot to stop it, and then Vlasic sent the puck ahead to Couture for the winning goal that moved San Jose within seven points of first-place Vegas with eight games remaining in the regular season.

Brent Burns also scored and Jones made 24 saves to help the Sharks open a four-point lead over third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division with a game in hand as the Sharks close in on home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

"For us to get a win tonight was important," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Plus, just plant that seed. If we stay hot, you never know, we might be able to catch them and get home ice. We took care of business tonight and we'll try to keep playing well."

Tomas Tatar scored the lone goal for the Golden Knights, who were kept in the game by a sterling performance by goalie Malcolm Subban. He stopped 42 shots but it wasn't enough for Vegas to come up with the win, although he helped earn a point that gave the expansion team 100 this season.

"It's impressive," forward James Neal said. "It's a great season for our guys. Guys came together real quick. A great job so far but we're not done yet."

The Golden Knights struck first on a pretty passing play early in the first period that ended when Marchessault found Tatar cutting through the slot ahead of Justin Braun. Tatar skated past Jones and backhanded the puck into the open net.

Vegas has been dominant when getting off to a lead, posting an NHL-best 31-5-1 record when scoring first heading into this game. But the Sharks carried the play in the second period, outshooting the Golden Knights 18-4 and getting the equalizer on a blast by Burns from the point after another strong shift by San Jose's fourth line.

"We want to be playing really good hockey this time of year and heading into the playoffs. I think that's the goal," coach Peter DeBoer said. "Whether we would have won tonight or lost, I like how we played for most of the game, so that's what I'm concentrating on."

Vegas managed to keep it tied despite the lopsided shot totals, killing off a four-minute penalty to Colin Miller and another late power play that started late in the second.

That penalty carried over until the third period and the Sharks got 25 seconds of a two-man advantage after Brayden McNabb was called for throwing his stick but still couldn't get anything past Subban.

The Golden Knights squandered a power-play chance later in the period when Miller was called for cross checking with the man advantage. That nearly led to a power-play goal for San Jose but Subban appeared to get a piece of a shot from in close to Joe Pavelski to keep the game tied at 1.

"He's the main reason we got the point," coach Gerard Gallant said. "He looked comfortable."

NOTES: Vegas G Marc-Andre Fleury didn't make the trip to San Jose with an undisclosed injury but is expected to join the team for Saturday's game in Colorado. ... Burns became the 15th player to play 500 career games with the Sharks.

Golden Knights: Visit Colorado on Saturday.

Sharks: Host Calgary on Saturday.


How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific


How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific

About a month ago, the Sharks appeared locked into the Pacific Division's second, third, fourth, or fifth spot. At the end of trade deadline day, they were 12 points back of the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights, and only two points up on the fifth place Calgary Flames.

24 days later, thanks to an 8-2-0 record over the last 10 games (second-best in the NHL), San Jose's still in second place. Now though, those margins are eight points and 11 points, respectively. 

The latter's pretty much locked the Sharks into a playoff spot, while the former's created a path for a late run at the Pacific Division crown. Beginning Thursday night, they will play the Golden Knights twice over both team's final nine games. 

What does the path look like to the Sharks' first division title since 2011? To start, they'll have to beat the Golden Knights twice in regulation to even have a shot. 

That is the foundation of any run at the Pacific's top spot. If the Sharks win both remaining games in regulation, they'll trail the Golden Knights by four points, leaving aside results against other teams for now.

They have to win in regulation, however. A win in overtime or the shootout on Thursday would only cut the gap to seven, and a subsequent win in regulation would leave it at five. Two losses, in any situation, would create a gap of 10-12 points, which would be nearly impossible to overcome this late in the season. 

One point doesn't seem like a lot, but this late in the season, it makes a world of difference. A five-point gap means they'll need to earn six more than the Golden Knights in those other seven games, while a four-point gap means they'll need to earn five in order to pass them. 

The simplest way to five extra points, is for the Sharks to have a record that's two wins and an overtime loss better (2-0-1) than the Golden Knights in the seven games where they don't play each other. That's impossible if Vegas earns at least 10 points in those seven games, so a 5-2-0 or 4-1-2 record would ensure a division banner raising in Sin City.

Taken all together, then, the Golden Knights' 'magic number' is 10 points. Even if the Sharks win on Thursday, their path to a Pacific title remains difficult, if not improbable. 

If a season with an expansion team leading their division has taught us anything, though -- it's that improbable is not impossible.