WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The challenge the Sharks face Tuesday night against the Washington Capitals goes beyond stopping Alexander Ovechkin, though that's a formidable enough task on its own.
After all, Ovechkin leads the NHL with 32 goals (seven more than Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins) and 238 shots (51 more than Patrick Sharp of the Chicago Blackhawks).
"You've got to be moving. You can't really be standing still. He's one of those guys that can beat you with his foot speed," defenseman Dan Boyle said of Ovechkin after an optional Tuesday morning skate. "He definitely is a special player and you're going to have your hands full. Not one guy is going to do it. It's going to be the five guys on the ice against him."
But Ovechkin isn't Washington's leading scorer. That honor goes to center Nicklas Backstrom, whose 48 points are two more than the Russian superstar has accumulated.
"Backstrom is an elite passer," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "Backstrom to Washington is Jumbo to San Jose. He's got that vision, he's got the patience. He delivers the puck very softly so people receiving it can handle it. They don't play Ovechkin and Backstrom together any more so their depth is spread throughout the lineup and that makes it even tougher."
Both are on the top power play unit, however, and that may explain why the Captials' success rate of 25.2 percent is tied with Pittsburgh for tops in the NHL.
"They run the same system night after night and teams have a tough time stopping it so they're obviously doing something right," McLellan said. "If we can disrupt them before they get set up, it'll certainly work in our favor. . . .But a lot of teams have tried it and haven't been successful."
The Sharks will have Antti Niemi in net against the Capitals, whose first-year head coach Adam Oates is expected to go with rookie Phillip Grubaeur who is 6-2-4 with a 2.15 goals against average and a .934 save percentage.
San Jose has a 16-1 record against Washington since the year 2000, with the lone loss coming in 2009. But neither the players nor McLellan were putting much stock in that dominating history.
"We haven't played this team for two years, we haven't played this team under a new head coach," McLellan said. "Out go the records."