The San Jose Sharks have the first game of a three-game road trip Tuesday, January 14. They will need the pictured match-up edge over the Washington Capitals on the ice and behind the bench to overcome recent road woes: 11 games with one real win, two in a shootout and eight regulation losses.
The Sharks also need to play with an edge. Some of their five missing forwards were victims of opponents taking liberties, and every road loss in this stretch involved defensive collapses in the second or third period where they seemed to lose their mental edge.
Fortunately for them, Washington coach Adam Oates may have provided extra motivation when he was critical of San Jose rookie Tomas Hertl's flamboyant goal after getting his first NHL hat trick. More importantly, the hosts are not a strong team this season.
The Capitals are in position to get home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference. They are also five games behind the Sharks—who have the fifth-best record (point percentage) in the Western Conference—and the same record as the non-qualifying Phoenix Coyotes.
The difference between the Pacific Division and the Metropolitan Division is literally fifth to second place. San Jose has to show that difference in quality of play on the ice, especially with more urgency thanks to Washington's bigger cushions for home-ice advantage and even just making the Stanley Cup playoffs at all.
The Sharks are 9-4-2 against the Eastern Conference and are 12-10-3 on the road for the season. Before a recent three-game points streak (2-0-1), the Capitals were just 1-3-3. For the season, they are 14-8-3 at home and 7-8-1 against the Western Conference.
Along with the match-ups detailed in the photo list, San Jose should at least get a point in this game—prediction: 3-2, Sharks.