NHL Hockey

Caps, Sharks aim to end midseason skids

The Washington Capitals and the visiting San Jose Sharks both are hoping to snap out of recent slides when they meet Tuesday in the nation's capital.

Washington is going through its worst stretch of the season, having dropped five consecutive games (0-4-1). San Jose lost its third straight on Monday, falling 6-2 to the host Florida Panthers. The skid immediately followed a seven-game winning streak.

First-year Capitals coach Todd Reirden met with his players before practice on Monday to talk about things they need to do better. He said the problems are both mental and physical, and they need to get back to the kind of hockey they played earlier this season and in last year's playoffs en route to winning the Stanley Cup.

"They're a group that wants to take ownership in the product," Reirden said. "They believe in what we're doing. I think we have a really proud group, and our leadership group is very strong. ... Many of those (championship-winning) people are still in the room now, so I'm confident in that and the endgame product. I believe in the guys in this room."

The Capitals began having problems on the defensive end when goalie Braden Holtby missed 2 1/2 games after being poked in the eye during a loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 12. He left that game about midway through that game and missed the next two, and Washington lost all three contests.

Holtby came back Friday in 2-0 home loss to the New York Islanders and played well but struggled in Sunday's 8-5 loss at Chicago. Reirden pulled him after Holtby gave up four goals on 11 shots in just over one period. Pheonix Copley allowed three goals on 17 shots before the Blackhawks got an empty-netter.

As for the Washington defense, Reirden shook up all four lines Sunday. The Capitals are trying to get center Evgeny Kuznetsov going after a great run during last spring's Stanley Cup playoffs. Kuznetsov is having a hard time this season, scoring just one five-on-five goal so far, and the coach dropped him to the third line Sunday.

Washington's final game before the All-Star break is Wednesday in Toronto.

The Sharks are coming in off a loss in which they blew a 3-1 lead by allowing the only four goals of the third period. Florida notched two power-play tallies nine seconds apart early in the period after Evander Kane was hit with a double minor for high-sticking, and the Panthers pulled away from there.

Logan Couture and Tim Meier each scored for the Sharks. Martin Jones started in goal but got pulled after the fifth goal Monday. Aaron Dell finished the game in his place.

San Jose, which plays its last game before the All-Star break on Tuesday, could be without Erik Karlsson against Washington. The lower-body injury might also keep the defenseman out of the All-Star Game, which will be played in the Sharks' arena on Saturday.

"I have no idea what's going on with (Karlsson's status for Saturday)," San Jose coach Pete DeBoer told the Mercury News. "I just want to get him healthy. If he's healthy enough, I would hope he'll play, and I know he would play. Let's cross our fingers and hope that he's healthy enough to play."

Karlsson had one goal and 24 assists while recording at least one point in each of the 14 games he played from Dec. 7-Jan. 8. The NHL doesn't recognize it as a point-scoring streak because he missed two of his team's game in that stretch due to a suspension for an illegal check to the head of the Los Angeles Kings' Austin Wagner.

--Field Level Media

Updated January 22, 2019

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