Like their next opponent, the Washington Capitals are striving for a fifth consecutive division title, and a return home would seem to help their cause.
The San Jose Sharks, though, have dominated the series recently and will try to add to that when they visit the Verizon Center on Monday night.
A 3-4-3 stretch has dropped Washington four points behind Florida in the Southeast Division, and the Capitals' chances to make up ground in the near future don't appear promising as five of their next seven games are on the road.
Washington (28-22-5) is 9-15-3 when traveling this season - including a 3-2 loss to the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers on Sunday - and 19-7-2 at Verizon.
The Capitals have one of the league's best power-play units at home (25.3 percent) but one of the worst on the road, converting at just 11.5 percent.
"We have to keep winning at home and definitely win some games on the road," coach Dale Hunter said. "To do that, special teams have to be better."
In their return home, the Capitals will try to avoid their first three-game skid since four straight defeats Nov. 25-Dec. 1, and a matchup with San Jose (30-17-6) wouldn't seem to help.
The Sharks have won 15 of 16 over Washington, including a 5-2 home win Jan. 7. They scored three straight goals in the third period to earn that victory but enter this game having lost three of four.
San Jose opened a nine-game road trip with a 3-0 defeat to St. Louis on Sunday. The Sharks, who had scored a combined 22 goals in their previous five games, were 0 for 4 on the power play after going 7 for 14 over the last four contests.
"(The power play) had been playing very well and did nothing for us at all," coach Todd McLellan said. "It actually lost us momentum, and it can't work that way."
The loss helped cut San Jose's lead in the Pacific Division to one point over Los Angeles, and the Sharks might have trouble hanging on to that advantage during their lengthy trek.
San Jose is 1-4-1 in its last six road games and 12-8-4 there this season. The Sharks, though, have won seven of eight in Washington and claimed a 2-0 win there last February as Antti Niemi stopped 25 shots.
They've also won four straight overall matchups with the Capitals. Patrick Marleau had a goal and two assists during the win last month, and Dan Boyle tied a career high with three assists.
Marleau has three goals and three assists over his last six games while Boyle's 36 career points against Washington are his most versus any opponent. Ryane Clowe, who had a combined six points over four games before Sunday's loss, has four goals and an assist in his last six against the Capitals.
Washington star Alex Ovechkin has two goals and two assists over his last three contests, and four goals and an assist in his last six against San Jose.
The Capitals are hoping to get Tomas Vokoun back from an illness that caused him to miss Sunday's loss. Vokoun is 10-1-1 with a 2.29 goals-against average in his last 12 matchups with San Jose, while backup Michal Neuvirth is 0-3-0 with a 3.37 GAA in three all-time starts.
Niemi is 3-0-1 with a 1.98 GAA in his career against Washington but the Sharks might send out Thomas Greiss for his first start against the Capitals.
- Washington Capitals
- San Jose Sharks
- San Jose