Programming note – Sharks-Capitals coverage starts today at 7:00 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California
WHERE THEY STAND
Sharks: 39-19-7, 85 points, 1st Pacific Division
Capitals: 44-14-7, 95 points, 1st Metropolitan Division
PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES
***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.
KEEP AN EYE ON...
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)
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)
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