Hansen likely to debut for Sharks vs. Caps

When the San Jose Sharks looked to add some grit to their lineup, they swung a deal for Jannik Hansen just ahead of the NHL's trade deadline.

After nine days, they finally will get to see what their newest acquisition can do.

With immigration issues cleared up, Hansen is expected to debut with his new team and the Sharks will try to continue their domination of the league-leading Washington Capitals on Thursday night when San Jose opens a season-high six-game homestand.

Pacific Division-leading San Jose (39-19-7) picked up the Danish-born right winger from the Vancouver Canucks for Nikolay Goldobin and a 2017 draft pick on Feb. 28. Instead of suiting up for a team that is fading out of the playoff picture, Hansen reportedly will be on the Sharks' top line with Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton to go against a Capitals team that leads the league with 95 points.

"It could be an easier opponent for sure, but these are the teams you've got to play," Hansen told the San Jose Mercury News after practice on Wednesday.

Hansen clearly is not aware of the Sharks' history against Washington (44-14-7).

San Jose has not lost at home in regulation to the Capitals since Oct. 20, 1993, going 12-0-2 with one tie. The Sharks also improved to 10-1-2 in their past 13 matchups overall with Washington following a 3-0 victory on Nov. 8.

Injuries have limited Hansen to just six goals and seven assists in 28 games this season. That doesn't seem to matter to Sharks coach Peter DeBoer, who just wants Hansen to keep doing what has kept him in the league for 10 seasons.

"Come in and play your game," DeBoer told the Mercury News. "No expectations. We don't need him to fix our scoring woes or anything else. Just work hard, play your game and enjoy the situation. We've got a great group. We're winning a lot of games, and we want him to be a part of that."

San Jose opens its longest run of 2016-17 at SAP Center after defeating the Jets 3-2 in Winnipeg on Monday, the Sharks' fourth win in five games. Just over a month after Patrick Marleau posted his 500th goal, Joe Thornton drew his 1,000th career assist on Pavelski's empty-net goal in the final minute.

Thornton has multipoint games in four of his past five appearances against Washington, including goals in four consecutive contests. Overall, "Jumbo Joe" has notched four goals and five helpers in the series dating back to 2014-15.

The Capitals will play 10 of their final 17 games on the road starting with this contest. Despite a 17-8-6 record in opposing rinks this season, Washington is 4-4-1 in its past nine on the road.

While 27 goals in a season for many players would be a success, it is not for Washington winger Alex Ovechkin, who recorded at least 50 in each of the previous three campaigns. He has just three goals in his past 15 games -- none at even strength.

"Early in that streak, I don't think he was getting very many chances," Washington coach Barry Trotz said Monday. "I think he's working better for those chances. Like I say, the hockey gods sort of are making him pay and making have to work for it for a little bit. ... It's tightening up now. You have to work for your goals, work for your space, all those things."

One of Ovechkin's two career goals in San Jose came at even strength.

The expected goaltending matchup should be a good one.

Washington's Braden Holtby leads the league with a 1.93 goals-against average and eight shutouts. He ranks third with 34 wins and fifth in save percentage at .929.

Holtby, who could be in line for his second straight Vezina Trophy later this year, is 7-0-1 and has allowed just 17 goals in his past nine road games.

San Jose's Martin Jones, meanwhile, is tied for fifth with 30 wins, and he blanked Washington in November with a 24-save effort.

If he starts, Holtby would try to help the Caps bounce back after their franchise-record, 15-game home winning streak was snapped Monday in a 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars. The Capitals haven't lost back-to-back games in regulation since Nov. 26 and Dec. 1.