WASHINGTON — With Braden Holtby between the pipes, the Washington Capitals feel they have a shot against any team in the NHL. That theory will be put to the test again when the San Jose Sharks come to town Monday.
The Capitals have won five of seven game, and they used another stellar performance from netminder Holtby on Saturday to down the Metropolitan Division-leading Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3. Now, Washington (15-11-1) is eager to continue testing itself against high-quality competition as it tries to become a more consistent team.
“We’re playing some quality opponents right now,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “The Kings were a quality opponent, Columbus is a quality opponent, San Jose is a quality opponent. Four of the five teams we’re up against in the next little while here are four of the top five teams in the league defensively, so it’s hard to score on those teams. We have to work for our goals.”
The Capitals will face a difficult challenge against the stingy Sharks, who are second in the NHL in goals-against (2.2 per game) and penalty-kill percentage (87.7 percent). San Jose is coming off a 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, a result that ended a three-game winning streak and a 4-0-2 stretch.
“Good teams make you pay,” Sharks goalie Martin Jones said after looking solid in his return from an injury that caused him to miss two games.
The Sharks, who have been hit hard by the injury bug, know that goals likely will be at a premium. They are fine with engaging the Capitals in a defensive battle.
“We’re getting more comfortable in 2-1, 3-2 games,” San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said. “There’s no panic. That’s becoming more second nature to us. We’re not scoring five or six goals a night. We have to be comfortable in those situations.”
Forward Marcus Sorensen, who was called up from the San Jose Barracuda of the American Hockey League on Saturday, will join the team Monday to provide some injury relief. He had five goals and nine assists through 17 AHL games this season.
“He’s got some elements that we can use up here — his speed, his tenacity,” DeBoer said. “I like his game when he’s playing it.”
The visit to Washington wraps up a four-game road swing for San Jose, which is an impressive 7-3-1 away from home.
Sharks forward Joe Thornton was fined $5,000 Sunday for slashing Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson during the Saturday game, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced.
Washington recalled forward Travis Boyd from AHL Hershey on Sunday. Boyd had three goals and 17 assists in 23 games at Hershey and owned the longest active streak of games played in the league at 208 straight, including playoffs.
The Capitals are hoping to keep the momentum going in the third game of their five-game homestand, with contests against the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers looming.
“In order to be an elite team, we have to keep improving,” Holtby said.