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Sharks aim to maintain dominance of Capitals

by Corey Masisak

CAPITALS (33-27-11) at SHARKS (46-18-7)


Last 10: Washington 4-4-2; San Jose 8-1-1

Season series: The San Jose Sharks won 2-1 in a shootout Jan. 14 at Verizon Center. San Jose has defeated the Washington Capitals six straight times and has won in 16 of the previous 17 games between the clubs.

Big story: The Capitals are trying to reach the postseason for a seventh straight season and could finish a trip through California with five points in three games with a win. The Sharks are trying to push their lead in the Pacific Division to four points ahead of the idle Anaheim Ducks.

Team Scope:

Capitals: Washington won its first five games against San Jose after the Sharks entered the League in 1991, but is 4-20-1 since and hasn't won in northern California since Oct. 30, 1993. The Capitals won their first game at SAP Center shortly after it opened for the 1993-94 season, but are 0-12-1 since.

Evgeny Kuznetsov was 18 months old the last time Washington won in San Jose, but his arrival has helped spark the Capitals closer to another playoff berth. Kuznetsov, 21, has five assists in six games since joining the Capitals after his season in the Kontinental Hockey League was complete.

Washington and the Detroit Red Wings entered the day one point behind both the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild-card slot in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals are near the end of a tough stretch of games, but still have home contests against the Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings immediately following this one before the schedule lightens a little for the closing stretch.

Sharks: San Jose welcomed back a couple of healthy players and look like a top contender in the West again. The Sharks were in fifth place in the West after a loss Feb. 3 to the Philadelphia Flyers and nine points back of the Ducks.

They won the last two games before the Olympic break, and when players returned from the 2014 Sochi Olympics so too did Logan Couture and Raffi Torres, both from injured reserve. Torres played five games before another injury, but Couture is a big part of why San Jose is 9-2-1 since the break.

The Sharks have dominated their past two opponents at even strength, collecting 62.1 percent of the combined shot attempts against the Ducks and Florida Panthers. This is an area the Capitals struggle in, so expect San Jose to spend a lot time with the puck.

Who's hot: Washington's Joel Ward has goals in four straight games and nine his past 18 contests. His 22 for the season is a career best. … Sharks captain Joe Thornton has 10 points in his past eight games.

Injury report: Forwards Mikhail Grabovski (lower body), Brooks Laich (groin) and Aaron Volpatti (upper body) are out for the Capitals. … Torres (knee) is expected to miss his sixth straight game for San Jose. Defenseman Brad Stuart (upper body) and forward Tomas Hertl (knee) are also out for the Sharks.

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