Highlights: Sabres 2, Capitals 1 (SO)
News and notes as the Capitals [22-16-7, 51 points] take on the San Jose Sharks [28-12-6, 62 points] tonight at Verizon Center [7 p.m., CSN]:
Trending: The Sharks have lost two of their last three, three of their last five, and five of their last eight. But … they’ve beaten the Caps in 16 of their last 17 meetings, including five straight. The Caps have gained five of a possible six points in their last three games. They are 3-3-4 in their last 10.
Mimicking the Caps: During their practice at Verizon Center on Monday, Sharks coach Todd McLellan lined his players up in the Capitals’ power play formation, even telling Brent Burns that he was Alex Ovechkin in the offensive left circle. “Not many teams have stopped it,” Sharks assistant coach Jim Johnson said. “It’s pretty powerful. You’ve got to get a save from your goaltender. It’s the best power play in the league and we know that and there are many options. You’ve got [Alex] Ovechkin, you’ve got [Nicklas] Backstrom, you’ve got [Marcus] Johansson, you’ve got Troy Brouwer in the slot for the down and in play. We’ve got to stay out of the box and be disciplined against this team because there’s not too many teams that have had success against them.”
Remember him?: Johnson served as an assistant coach for the Capitals under Dale Hunter two seasons ago and played two full seasons with the Caps from 1994-96. He said he and his wife are enjoying life in California. “I have great memories here from a couple years ago and as a player,” he said. “It’s a great organization. We know coming into the building it’ll be a tough game but it’s always good to come back to D.C.”
U.S.A.: Two members of the U.S. Olympic team will be in the lineup tonight: defenseman John Carlson for the Caps and center Joe Pavelski for the Sharks. Pavelski, who is from Plover., Wisc., has a team-high 21 goals and is second behind Joe Thornton with 43 points. He has 10 goals in his last 16 games.
Assist men: Thornton leads the NHL with 45 assists, eight more than Caps center Nicklas Backstrom.
Toothless Sharks: The Sharks are without two of their top six scorers. Center Logan Couture [14-21-35] is out 2-3 weeks after undergoing what is believed to be hand surgery, and rookie center Tomas Hertl is out with a lower body injury that required surgery on Dec. 31.
Quick starters: After facing the Sabres, who have the fewest first-period goals in the NHL , the Capitals will face the NHL’s fastest starters. The Sharks have scored 51 goals in first periods this season, most in the NHL. They’ve also recorded the most shots in the NHL with 1,631. They’ve scored goals in the opening minute of a game six times.
Isn’t that special: The Caps remain on top of the NHL’s power play rankings at 25.2 percent, but have fallen to 18th in the NHL in penalty killing at 80.4 percent. “We’ve got to get that up to around 85 or 90 percent,” Caps left wing Brooks Laich said. The Sharks rank 12th on the power play [19.1 percent] and 11th on the PK [83.3 percent].
In the box: The Sharks have committed the fourth fewest penalties in the NHL this season, averaging 9.1 a game. They have the fewest minor penalties in the NHL. The Caps have accrued the third-most penalties in the league, averaging 13.2 a game. To put that in perspective, the Sharks have spent 196 minutes this season killing penalties. The Caps have spent 269 minutes on the kill.
Milestone marker: Mike Green’s next goal will be the 100th of his NHL career. Tonight marks’ Joel Ward’s 399th NHL game. Brooks Laich is playing in his 598th game. Joe Thornton is sitting at 999 career penalty minutes.
Etcetera: The Caps have outshot their opponents 240-200 in their last seven games. Ovechkin has 48 shots in his last eight games and leads the NHL with 238. The Caps are 5-1-3 in their last nine home games. After tonight, eight of their next nine games are on the road, where they are 8-8-4. Jason Chimera has scored the first goal for the Capitals five times this season. The Caps have nine wins this season when trailing in the third period, which tops in the NHL.