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Sharks return home to host Caps

by John Kreiser
CAPITALS (30-18-10) at SHARKS (31-21-6)

TV -- CSN-DC (HD); CSN-California (HD)

Last 10 -- Washington 4-4-2; San Jose 7-2-1

Season series -- It's the second and final meeting of the season -- and comes just nine days after the Sharks went into the Verizon Center and blanked the Caps 2-0.

Big story -- After spending the season working to improve defensively -- often at the expense of the NHL's most explosive offense -- the Caps looked like their old selves on Wednesday in Anaheim, outlasting the Ducks 7-6 to even their record at 1-1-0 on their five-game road trip. They'll be the visitors as the Sharks play their first home game since Feb. 1

Team Scope:

Capitals -- A year or two ago, a 7-6 win might have been just another night for the Caps -- a game in which the NHL's best offense overcame a shaky defensive effort. But Wednesday night's offensive explosion was out of character for this year's team, which has concentrated on defense -- often to the detriment of the offense. It was the highest-scoring game the Capitals have been in this season and marked only the fourth time they scored five or more goals in the last 38 games.

"It could be a game that gets us out of the kind of spell we were in," said Mike Knuble, who scored early in the third period. "We gave up six goals, so it was really good to score seven and actually win a game the old way, like we were used to winning. The goalies will take the heat for everything that went on, but there was some sloppy play and some lax defense on both sides at times."

Alexander Semin, silent offensively for the last three months, erupted with a hat trick and scored the game-winner with 1:47 remaining, capping comebacks from deficits of 4-2, 5-4 and 6-5.

Sharks -- San Jose is glad to be back home after going 5-2-0 on a grueling seven-game road trip, albeit one that ended on a happy note with a 2-1 overtime win at Nashville on Tuesday. The Sharks looked sluggish in the early going, but regrouped as the game went on, tied the score on a second-period goal by Devin Setoguchi and won it when Patrick Marleau scored on a breakaway with 1:07 left in OT.

"We found a way to work back into it in the last 54 minutes," coach Todd McLellan said. "That's the way it is when you play against a team like this. Nashville is a team that is going to come out hard early. You have to find a way to weather the storm."

Who's hot -- Alex Ovechkin has 2 goals in his last three games. … Sharks goalie Antti Niemi played every minute of the road trip, allowing only 11 goals in the seven games and posting a pair of shutouts.

Injury report -- Washington defenseman Mike Green is out as he tries to overcome the effects of taking a shot in the ear 11 days earlier. Defenseman Tom Poti is still out with a groin injury. … The Sharks are still without goalie Antero Niittymaki (lower body).

Stat pack -- The Caps had lost seven in a row against Western Conference opponents before beating the Ducks. … Semin's three goals were his first since getting one against Carolina on Nov. 26. He has 12 of his 21 goals in his four hat tricks, while scoring just nine times in the other 39 games he's played in. Semin has to produce offensively if the Caps have any hope of improving their placement in the East and perhaps catching Tampa Bay for the top spot in the Southeast Division.

Puck drop -- No one on the Caps has ever won at the Shark Tank while wearing a Washington uniform. Washington is 0-9 with a tie in its last 10 visits to San Jose since a 4-2 win on Oct. 30, 1993 -- a victory that gave the Capitals a 3-0-0 record in San Jose. They've been outscored 38-19 in San Jose since then.

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