SHARKS (3-2-1) at CAPITALS (2-2-2)
Season Series -- This is the first of two meetings between San Jose and Washington this season. They play again in San Jose on Dec. 30. The Sharks won the only meeting between the clubs last season, 7-2 at San Jose, and have won their last six visits to the Nation's Capital.
Big Story -- You want to see some firepower? Tune in and you should see plenty. Five of the top six point producers and four of the top seven scorers entering Wednesday's action in the NHL will be on display at the Verizon Center. It's Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin for Washington vs. Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau of the Sharks. We're talking scary offense, and both teams could use the two points as a pick-me-up. The Caps have lost four straight (0-2-2) while the Sharks are coming off a 1-0 shootout loss at home to Phoenix and are starting a six-game road trip.
Sharks -- As we've already said, San Jose has some scary offensive performers, but all of them were shut down by the Coyotes and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov on Monday. Fortunately, Evgeni Nabokov was just as good as Bryzgalov, forcing the scoreless game into the shootout. That loss came after back-to-back wins, the only time in the young season the Sharks have shown consistency in back-to-back games. Tonight's game is the first in the Sharks' six-game, 13-night road trip. They also play the Islanders, Rangers, Lightning, Thrashers and Flyers before heading home for two games to close out October.
"The first game is pivotal -- we won't worry about the other five," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We're going to the East Coast and we don't know a lot about those teams. Obviously the Ovechkins, the Mike Richards, the (Jeff) Carters jump out at you. We've got some homework to do."
Capitals -- Ovechkin hasn't scored a goal in the last three games and Backstrom and Semin went pointless in the last two -- so coach Bruce Boudreau might be ready to tinker with his lines again. He changed up his top lines for Monday's game 3-2 shootout loss to New Jersey, moving Mike Knuble up to play right wing with Backstrom and Ovechkin and shifting Semin to play with Brooks Laich and Brendan Morrison. In Tuesday's practice, Boudreau had Morrison between Ovechkin and Knuble and Backstrom between Laich and Semin.
"I'm just trying to get at least two lines that I know are going to be productive offensively and you experiment to find things," Boudreau said.
Who's Hot --- Considering the Sharks got blanked by Phoenix, it's hard to say any of their offensive guys are still hot. However, rookie defenseman Jason Demers has played well (0-3-3, plus-3) and McLellan has liked what he has seen so far from Jed Ortmeyer, who scored a goal against Minnesota and had three shots in 14:12 of ice time against Phoenix. … Knuble is starting to come on for the Caps. He had a goal and an assist against Jersey. Mike Green also scored his first goal of the season Monday while playing more than 30 minutes for the first time. David Steckel's 66.7 percent success rate on faceoffs was first in the NHL entering Wednesday among players who normally take draws. He's 52-26.
Injury Report -- The Sharks are still without Joe Pavelski (foot) and Torrey Mitchell (tendinitis in left knee). Caps defenseman John Erskine (upper body injury) is likely out. Forward Tomas Fleischmann (blood clot in leg) has not played this season.
Stat Pack -- Ovechkin entered Wednesday's action first in the League with 42 shots on goal and second with 24 hits. … San Jose and Washington were 1-2 in faceoff percentage in the NHL through Wednesday. The Sharks lead at 59.5 percent with the Caps right behind them at 56.8 percent. … The Sharks have won the last 11 meetings between the clubs -- Washington last beat San Jose on Feb. 20, 1999.
Puck Drop -- "To Jersey, we lose in a shootout, so I gotta say that's a draw," Boudreau said. "The Philly game we lose in overtime and the other two games are one-goal games that, with five minutes to go, were tied. Whether we win by eight or lose by eight (against San Jose) we're still going to believe we could play with the big boys. Obviously it would be nicer to win because they thumped us pretty good in San Jose."
-- Dan Rosen, NHL.com