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NHL Preview: San Jose Sharks at Washington Capitals

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Records: San Jose, 3-2-1; Washington, 2-2-2

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Where: Verizon Center

When: 7 p.m.

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Radio: WFED (820 AM, 1500 AM)

No professional hockey team goes an entire year without a losing skid of some kind, but after being lauded as one of the NHL's elite during the buildup to the 2009-10 season, the Capitals' current four-game winless streak has caught some off guard.

Coach Bruce Boudreau has shaken things up heading into Thursday night's matchup against the San Jose Sharks, a team that defeated Washington, 7-2, in their only meeting last season. He had already tinkered with the offensive lines before Monday's 3-2 shootout loss to New Jersey, and judging from practice the past few days, he will do it again Thursday in hopes of finding goal scoring throughout the lineup, not just from the team's stars.

In addition, the coach pulled the team aside in the middle of Wednesday's practice to let everyone know the lack of effort being displayed wasn't acceptable and would only translate over to tonight's game. "I was [ticked] off at a couple guys," Boudreau said. "They've got to work harder."

Getting off the schneid, though, will be easier said than done against a San Jose squad that was the Western Conference's best team during last year's regular season.

Capitals goaltender Jose Theodore likely will get his fourth consecutive start in net. Over his career, he has a 6-6 record and a .919 save percentage against the Sharks.

A key battle to watch will be on special teams. The Sharks' penalty kill has given up a goal in all but one game thus far, while the loss to New Jersey represented the first time the Capitals' normally potent power play didn't score this season. Still, Washington knows it's no time to panic, just six games into an 82-game schedule.

"We lose four games, but it's better we losing right now than later at the end of the year," Alex Ovechkin said.

-- Mark Giannotto


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