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Sharks begin road trip vs. East against Capitals

by Brian Hunter

SHARKS (28-12-6) at CAPITALS (22-16-7)


Last 10: San Jose 6-4-0; Washington 3-3-4

Season series: This is the first of two games between the San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals, who haven't faced each other since Feb. 13, 2012. Joe Pavelski had two goals and two assists as San Jose won 5-3 in Washington.

Big story: Two high-octane offenses look to get revved back up after quiet weekends. The Sharks were shut out 1-0 Saturday by the Boston Bruins, their first game without a goal since losing 4-0 to the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 9, 2013. (They were held scoreless for 65 minutes by the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 21, 2013, but broke through in the shootout for a 1-0 victory.) The Capitals, meanwhile, were stymied by Ryan Miller in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.

Team Scope:

Sharks: This is the start of a three-game road trip against Eastern Conference opponents for San Jose, which is still fifth in the NHL with 3.06 goals per game. The Sharks have fallen 13 points behind the Anaheim Ducks for the Pacific Division lead and are being pursued by the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks for second place.

The Sharks are 7-2-1 against the Atlantic Division this season, with both losses coming at the hands of the defensive conference champion Bruins. Other than not getting a puck in the net, the overall mood was positive coming off the loss Saturday.

"Basically what it came down to was a little bit of puck luck," coach Todd McLellan said in the San Jose Mercury News. "A bounce went their way, went to their stick, and it didn't go to ours. Nothing we have to hang our heads over."

Capitals: Monday was a day off from practice for Washington, which starts a stretch Tuesday of three games in four nights and five in eight. Despite the loss Sunday, the Capitals are still tied for eighth in the League with 2.84 goals per game and the bigger question from day to day seems to be which of their three healthy and capable goaltenders will get the nod next.

The answer more often than not of late has been rookie Philipp Grubauer. Braden Holtby has started just once since Dec. 21. Michal Neuvirth got a surprise start this past Friday and beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, but that was his first appearance since Nov. 22. Grubauer meanwhile has just two regulation losses in 13 games to go with a sparkling .934 save percentage.

"He's playing good, he looked solid in the net. Every guy's going to have his moments for sure and you can't over read that," coach Adam Oates said in the Washington Post after Grubauer stopped 30 shots in the loss to Buffalo. "He's got plenty of rest too. I think he's doing good, don't want to overstate it either."

Who's hot: Sharks goalie Antti Niemi has turned in back-to-back strong efforts, stopping 45 of 47 shots (.957 save percentage) against the Bruins and Red Wings. … Joel Ward has one goal and three assists during a four-game point streak for the Capitals. His 27 points this season are eight short of the career high he established in his rookie season of 2008-09 with the Nashville Predators.

Injury report: San Jose defenseman Matt Irwin (upper body) has missed the past two games. Forwards Logan Couture (hand), Marty Havlat (lower body), Tomas Hertl (knee), Adam Burish (lower body) and Raffi Torres (knee) are on injured reserve. … Washington defenseman Jack Hillen (leg) is on injured reserve.

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