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Capitals, Sharks both coming off shutout victories

by Brian Hunter
SHARKS (28-19-6) at CAPITALS (29-15-10)


Last 10:
San Jose 7-2-1; Washington 5-2-3

Season series:
First of two meetings this season, with Washington making a trip to San Jose next week as part of a five-game road trip. The teams split their games on the 2009-10 schedule, with Alex Ovechkin scoring twice for the Capitals in a 4-1 win on Oct. 15, 2009, and the Sharks responding for a 5-2 victory on Dec. 30, 2009, as Joe Pavelski netted a pair and both Ryane Clowe and Joe Thornton connected on penalty shots.

Big story: Will the Capitals have forward Alexander Semin back in the lineup Tuesday? Will they be forced to play without the services of defenseman Mike Green? Semin could be activated from injured reserve after missing the last 12 games with a hip injury. Green missed practice Monday after being struck in the right ear by a shot from Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik in Sunday's game. He will be re-evaluated Tuesday and coach Bruce Boudreau didn't rule out the possibility Green may have suffered a concussion.

Team Scope:

Sharks: He was pulled from San Jose's first game back after the All-Star break, but Antti Niemi has rebounded to win his last two starts. That includes a flawless, 26-save performance Saturday afternoon in a 2-0 win in Boston. Thornton was shut down in only his third trip back to TD Garden to face the organization that drafted him with the first pick in the 1997 Entry Draft and the Sharks as a team didn't generate a ton of offense. But a Logan Couture power-play goal in the first period held up until Devin Setoguchi added an empty-netter with 2.1 seconds left.

"I think our team made it very easy for me to see the puck and block the hard ones. It wasn't too bad," Niemi said. "We knew they had big, strong guys and they are. They were trying to be at our net and in front, and trying to make the good screens. I think they did. I lost the pucks a few times, but I think our 'D' did a good job of clearing them out for me."

Capitals: Like its opponent Tuesday night, Washington also enters off a shutout victory. The Capitals renewed their rivalry with the Penguins and Michal Neuvirth was on top of his game, making 22 saves for his second career shutout. Brooks Laich opened the scoring late in the first period, Marcus Johansson doubled the lead in the second with a shorthanded goal and Mike Knuble's empty-netter finished things off.

"For us to get anywhere near the top again we're going to have to string together a winning streak of six, seven or eight games; win nine of 10 to catch the teams ahead of us," Laich said after the Capitals pulled to within three points of the Lightning in the Southeast Division.

Who's hot: Setoguchi (4-3-7), Clowe (3-4-7) and Couture (4-2-6) all have five-game points streaks going for the Sharks. … Laich has goals in consecutive games for the Capitals.

Injury report: San Jose goalie Antero Niittymaki and forward Torrey Mitchell are on injured reserve with lower-body injuries. … Washington defenseman Tom Poti (lower body) and forward Eric Fehr (shoulder) are on injured reserve.

Stat pack: When Clowe and Thornton both converted their penalty shots against the Capitals last season, it marked the first time in over 27 years a team scored twice in that fashion in the same game. Thomas Gradin and Ivan Hlinka did it for the Canucks against the Red Wings on Feb. 11, 1982.

Puck drop:
With Monday's news that Marc Savard of Boston will be shut down for the rest of this season after his latest concussion, don't expect Washington to rush Green back on the ice if there's any doubt as to his health.

"I think we'd have to (consider the possibility that it's a concussion)," Boudreau said on Monday. "It's definitely way more serious now, any injury to the head, than it was 10 to 15 years ago, so we always err on the side of caution. You just hope that that is not the case. We'll wait until [Tuesday] morning and hopefully he feels better.

"We'll listen to what the trainer and Mike has to say and that's the advice we'll use."

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