SAN JOSE – The last time the Capitals won here, Alex Ovechkin was 8 years old, Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” was at the top of the Billboard charts, Bill Clinton was in the first year of his presidency and the Shark Tank – now called the SAP Center – had been open for less than two months.
On Oct. 30, 1993, Peter Bondra, Craig Berube, Keith Jones and Mike Ridley scored as Washington captured a 4-2 win over the Sharks. In 12 visits to Northern California since then, the Capitals have failed to come away with a victory.
The Capitals are 4-20-1-2 in the 27 meetings with San Jose since that contest, with each of the victories coming in Washington. They haven’t beaten the Sharks anywhere since Oct. 15, 2009.
“We haven’t had too much success here,” John Carlson said. “They’re a good team an intimidating team. I think they play a good style for their rink and once you get that personality and recognition to the rink being a tough place to play, teams come in here and go, ‘Uh oh, we’ve got to face the Sharks at home.’ We’ve seen it at home I think sometimes for us. But for us it’s the perfect time to come in here because there’s no time for let downs, excuses. There’s no time but for anything but our best.”
While the Capitals have played well in the first two games of this California trip they have eased into the contests somewhat, finding a better rhythm and flow to their game as it progresses. Coach Adam Oates knows if the Capitals are going to leave San Jose with a win, though, they need to be on their game from the opening puck drop. The Sharks are 26-5-4 at home and 33-3-5 when scoring first this season.
“I felt that the last two games we played pretty good games and I would say that as the game went along we got stingier and played better,” Oates said. “We can’t afford to wait to the second period tonight. You’ve got to do it from the first shift.”
A large part of finding any success against the Sharks is handling the pressure from their top six, which is more two first lines than a first and a second with Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Brent Burns on one and Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Matt Nieto on the other.
“We still have establish getting them on their heels a little bit, wearing them out in their own end,” Oates said. “If you let Thornton have an easy game and never have to play in his own end he’s going to bury you. Marleau, Couture they’re guys that want transition, they want one and done in their own end. We need to make them think it’s going to be a long night playing defense.”
>> The Capitals continue to roll with Jaroslav Halak, who will make his eighth consecutive start Saturday night in San Jose. He’s 4-2-1 with a .935 save percentage and 2.13 goals-against average. Antti Niemi, who is 35-14-6 with a 2.34 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.
>> The Sharks will be without defenseman Brad Stuart (upper-body injury) for the 13th straight game tonight and forward Raffi Torres will miss his seventh with a lower-body injury.
>> On an unrelated note, the Capitals signed 2010 fifth-round draft pick Caleb Herbert to a two-year, entry-level deal that begins next season. Herbert, who played the last three years at Minnesota-Duluth, will report to the AHL’s Hershey Bears on a try out agreement for the remainder of this year.
Projected lineups for both teams
Joe Pavelski-Joe Thornton-Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau-Logan Couture-Matt Nieto
Tommy Wingels-James Sheppard-Marty Havlat
Adam Burish-Andrew Desjardins-Mike Brown
Scott Hannan-Dan Boyle
Matt Irwin-Justin Braun
Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Jason Demers
Antti Niemi will start, Alex Stalock will back up.