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Caps try to end long drought in San Jose

by Corey Masisak

CAPITALS (21-15-2) at SHARKS (22-11-4)

TV: CSN-MA, CSN-California (HD)

LAST 10: Washington 6-3-1; San Jose 7-1-2

Season Series: This is the first of two meetings between the two teams. San Jose has won 14 of the past 15 games between the teams since the beginning of the 1999-2000 season. The Capitals won their first three games in San Jose, but haven't won since Oct. 30, 1993 -- they have 10 losses and a tie since.

Big Story: Both teams got off to slow starts but are coming on of late and could be back among the NHL's elite if they keep the momentum going.

Team Scope:

Capitals : Washington began the Dale Hunter era with back-to-back losses, but the Capitals are 9-4-1 since then and starting to look like the team that ripped off four straight Southeast Division titles. A big issue after the team's 7-0-0 start was a lack of production from the team's stars not named Nicklas Backstrom.

Defenseman Mike Green is back in the lineup after missing all but one game in a two-month span. The Capitals are 9-0-0 in games that he plays in this season.

Sharks: San Jose was in good shape in late November, but losing seven of nine games knocked the Sharks out of the top eight in the Western Conference. A six-game homestand proved to be the elixir, as the Sharks won the first four and are on a 7-1-1 roll to move into first place in the Pacific Division. This game is the last at HP Pavilion before a stretch of seven of nine away from home.

Who's Hot: Alex Ovechkin has two points in each of Washington's past three games and seven goals in his past 11 contests. Defenseman Dennis Wideman has seven points in the past seven games and is tied for fifth in the League in points among defensemen with 27. … Benn Ferriero did not play for the Sharks between Oct. 28 and Dec. 17 because he was scratched or in the minors, but he has three goals in the seven games since returning to the lineup.

Injury Report: Washington forward Alexander Semin missed Tuesday's 3-1 win against Calgary and center Backstrom was injured against the Flames, but both could play against the Sharks. … San Jose forward Martin Havlat has missed seven games with a lower-body injury, while defensemen Jim Vandermeer and Colin White have also been out of the lineup.

Stat Pack: Washington defenseman Roman Hamrlik will play his 1,346th career game against the Sharks. That will move him into a tie with Mats Sundin for 44th in League history. If Hamrlik stays healthy, he can move into the top 35 by the end of this season. … San Jose goaltenders Antti Niemi (2.29) and Thomas Greiss (2.21) are in the top 20 in the League in goals against average among goalies with at least seven starts. They are one of six tandems to be among the top 20, along with goaltending duos in Boston, Minnesota, Vancouver, St. Louis and the New York Rangers.

Puck Drop : Washington hasn't enjoyed trips to the Shark Tank, and San Jose is among the top teams in the League with a 13-7-2 home record. Snapping the Capitals' nearly two-decades long funk in the city isn't going to be easy.

"It's a tough building to play in, we all know it, just like ours is," Capitals coach Dale Hunter told Katie Carrera of the Washington Post. "We're going to have to come out and have a real good start. To play a team like that you can't just have a bad start and think you're going to come back in that building. So we're going to have to have a real good start."

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