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National Hockey League

NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, March 22nd (All times Eastern)

Washington Capitals (33-27-11) at San Jose Sharks (46-18-7), 10:30 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - The surging San Jose Sharks will try to avoid a letdown when they host the playoff-hopeful Washington Capitals in Saturday's game at SAP Center.

The Sharks hosted Anaheim in Thursday's battle for the top spot in the Pacific Division and recorded a 3-2 regulation win over the Ducks, who entered Thursday's showdown tied with San Jose for first place.

San Jose has an opportunity to build on its two-point lead over Anaheim on Saturday, as the Ducks are idle ahead of Sunday's home test against Florida. The Ducks hold a game in hand over the Sharks in the race for the division crown.

The Sharks had a six-game winning streak snapped in Tuesday's 3-2 loss against visiting Florida despite firing 54 shots at Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo. However, San Jose was able to rebound from that frustrating home loss with Thursday's big win against the Ducks.

Joe Thornton was involved in all three San Jose goals, scoring once and assisting on the other two as the Sharks rallied to beat Anaheim in the battle for sole possession of first place in the Pacific. Thornton scored 8:11 into the third period to tie the score at 2-2 and sent a puck on net from the left boards that Brent Burns deflected in for the winner with 3:59 remaining.

"I just saw Burnsie's big body in front and just threw it in there," said Thornton.

Burns recorded his 20th goal of the season and also added an assist and seven shots on goal.

Patrick Marleau also scored for the Sharks and Antti Niemi only needed to make 16 saves to get the victory.

San Jose, which boasts a superb 26-5-4 record at the Shark Tank this season, is closing a three-game homestand on Saturday.

While the Sharks are aiming for an eighth win in nine tries on Saturday, Washington hopes for a return to the win column. The Capitals, who are one point out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, had won three in a row before dropping Thursday's shootout decision in Los Angeles.

With 77 points, Washington is currently tied with Detroit in the East, leaving the clubs one behind Columbus for the conference's second wild card spot. The Blue Jackets are idle on Saturday, while the Red Wings have a road test against Minnesota.

Marian Gaborik scored the winner in the third round of the shootout to help the Kings post Thursday's 2-1 win over the visiting Capitals. Gaborik skated in on the last attempt for Los Angeles and buried a wrister over the glove of Jaroslav Halak, and Jonathan Quick sealed the win by stopping Nicklas Backstrom.

Joel Ward had the only goal and Halak stopped 27 shots for the Capitals.

"That's who they are, the goalie played great, the goalie maybe stole it for them, but they play a hard-nose physical game, and they did, and I'm proud of the guys the way they stood up to it," said Washington head coach Adam Oates.

Washington fell to 13-16-6 as the visiting team but will try to end a three- game road trip on a positive note in tonight's game.

The Capitals, however, have not won in San Jose in more than two decades, as Washington's last road win over the Sharks was a 4-2 decision on Oct. 30, 1993.

San Jose is 11-0 with a tie in its last 12 home meetings against the Capitals and has won six straight and 17 of the past 18 encounters overall.

03/22 10:59:17 ET

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