Sharks vs. Capitals Preview

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) - The San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals coasted through much of the 2009-10 regular season en route to top seeds in their respective conferences.

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This season has been much different, with both teams jockeying for playoff positioning heading into a crucial stretch run toward the postseason.

Visiting San Jose looks to continue it's road success and recent dominance of Washington when the teams face off Tuesday night.

According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGlobal.com have made the Capitals -141 money line favorites for Tuesday's game against the Sharks. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 52% of more than 134 bets for this game have been placed on the Capitals -141.

The Sharks (28-19-6) are 7-0-1 over their last eight after a six-game losing streak, beating Boston 2-0 on Saturday. They've allowed only 2.0 goals per game during that stretch and are 6-1-1 in their last eight on the road, including a pair of shutouts from Antti Niemi.

Niemi made 26 saves against the Bruins as the Sharks offense mustered only a season-low 18 shots. Rookie Logan Couture, who missed the previous two games with the flue, scored his 23rd goal, and Devin Setoguchi added an empty-netter.

Niemi is 6-0-1 with a 2.09 goals-against average in his last eight starts overall, and he's 6-1-1 with a 1.47 GAA in his last eight on the road.

Ryan Clowe extended his point streak to five games by assisting on both goals, and San Jose killed captain Joe Thornton's tripping penalty midway through the third period to keep the lead.

``Some nights we get 45 (shots),'' Thornton said. ``For whatever reason, they played well, kept us on the outside. I think we were in the penalty box a little more than we should have. Good win.''

The Sharks have won three straight and pulled within three points of first-place Dallas in the Pacific Division.

``It is going to be tight right down to Game 82,'' Thornton said. ``We have been playing well lately and we have to continue it to get into the playoffs.''

If San Jose's recent history against the Capitals plays a role, it may be able to gain even more ground in the standings. The Sharks have won 12 of 13 against Washington, which is beginning to find a groove of its own.

The Capitals (29-15-10) have earned a point in eight of nine games and won two straight after a 3-0 win against rival Pittsburgh on Sunday. Including a 5-2 victory Friday against Tampa Bay, the eight goals in back-to-back games are the most in a two-game stretch for Washington since Dec. 19-21.

Washington is three points behind first-place Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division.

Alex Ovechkin had a goal and three assists Friday, but he took a hard hit to the knee from the Penguins' Matt Cooke on Sunday while being held scoreless in a physical battle.

``They don't like us. We don't like them,'' coach Bruce Boudreau said of Pittsburgh. ``That's the way it should be.''

Defenseman Mike Green took a puck to the head after playing only seven-plus minutes, and his status is day to day.

Michal Neuvirth made his first start since Jan. 18, earning his second shutout of the season with 22 saves filling in for the ill Semyon Varlamov. Neuvirth is now 16-6-4 with a 2.46 GAA on the season.

The Sharks and Capitals split two meetings last season, with each winning on home ice.

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