Pregame #55: Washington Capitals vs San Jose Sharks

Washington Capitals (29-15-10) vs. San Jose Sharks (28-19-6)
Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 PM EST
Television:  Comcast SportsNet (HD) (Game On!), National:  RDS,  Away: CSN-CA (HD)
Radio: XM, 1500AM, 820AM
Previous Games: (none)
Games Remaining:
Feb 17, 2011 WSH@SJ 10:30 PM ET
Former Sharks:
Matt Bradley (1998-2007)
Scott Hannan (2000-2003)
The Enemy:
Our Bloguin Partner: Couch Tarts
Fear The Fin

The Capitals look to continue their winning ways tonight as they face off against the San Jose Sharks.  Commitment to discipline, defense, and crashing the net have paid dividends, including a shutout victory for Michal “The Big Cheese” Neuvirth.  Convincing winners of their last two games, the Capitals must now face a Sharks team that has won 3 in a row and is chasing the Dallas Stars for the Pacific Division lead.  The super-line of “Jumbo” Joe Thornton, Dany “Heater” Heatley, and Patrick “Patrick” Marleau that scared so many teams last season has been less potent this year, but the Sharks have a very balanced attack with veteran forwards Joe Pavelski (35 points) and Ryane Clowe (43 points), rookie Logan Couture (23 goals) and defenseman Dan “Slew Foot” Boyle (35 points). The Sharks also feature last year’s Stanley Cup winning goaltender, Antti Niemi.

Injury Report – UPDATE:   The Capitals will be without RW Eric Fehr (shoulder), D Tom Poti (groin), and likely D Mike Green (head).  The Sharks will be without forward Torrey Mitchell due to a lower body injury. 

NEW: LW Alexander Semin is expected to make his return to the lineup tonight after missing the past 12 games with a hip injury, meaning C Jay Beagle has been re-assigned to Hershey.  The Sharks are expecting Cap-killing goalie Antero Niittymaki to back up Niemi tonight after missing 6 games.  Niitty is 7-3-1 in his career versus the Capitals with a 2.40 GAA and a .924 save percentage. 

Old Kentucky Shark

Read on!

Things to watch for:


A Monster Linemate: Jason Chimera has been an excellent addition to the Capitals’ top line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom. His speed and forechecking ability have created numerous scoring chances and have given opposing defenses another threat to consider. Chimera’s skill set is maximized on this line, as his strong passing ability is well-utilized, his average hands are of little concern on a line with two excellent puckhandlers, and his average shot is good enough for rebounds. Let’s hope Coach Boudreau keeps this trio together.

Rookie Power: Capitals rookie centers Marcus Johansson and Mathieu Perreault have been earning their keep in recent games. Since the All-Star break, Perreault has posted points in 3 straight games (1 goal, 4 points) and a +2 rating. He was also the #2 star of the game against Montreal on February 2.  In the past 5 games, Marcus Johansson has won 24 of 39 faceoffs (61.5%), a +1 rating, 7 shots on goal, an assist, and a nasty backhanded, shorthanded goal against the Penguins on Sunday that nailed the coffin shut and earned him the #3 star of the game. George McPhee will have his work cut out for him in trying to decide what to do at the trade deadline if both players keep up this level of production.

I’d Tap That:  Best known to Caps fans for his battles with Alex Ovechkin, hulking Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray is also the inventor of the hands-free three-sprout keg tap.  The tap is sold by Uber Dispensing Company, the company that Murray co-founded and manages with several Cornell University classmates.  In addition to playing stalwart defense for he Sharks, Murray has also followed in his grandfather’s footsteps of representing Team Sweden in international play, both times as a teammate of Caps center Nicklas Backstrom.  Murray’s grandfather, Lasse Björn, was a 6’4, 226-pound defenseman whose 17-year playing career included winning the 1952 Olympic Bronze Medal, two World Championships, and 9 Swedish league titles.