The Washington Times - February 13, 2012, 01:03PM

Sometimes the schedule plays in your favor. Other times it’s the opposite. For the Washington Capitals, Monday night provides a situation they need to take advantage of.

Not only did the San Jose Sharks play Sunday night in St. Louis, but they’ll be starting backup Thomas Greiss at Verizon Center.


“It’s the first time for me playing in this building against that team,” Greiss said. “It’ll be something new for me.”

First time for the 26-year-old goalie ever seeing the Caps. But he has played well when spotting for starter Antti Niemi. This season Greiss is 7-4-1 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.

And though Niemi was in net for San Jose’s 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues, this road back-to-back is hard on the Sharks all around.

“We got in really late – it was a time change and everything; it’s not much sleep,” Greiss said. “It’s a tough spot being a little tired.”

For the Caps, it’s a golden opportunity. They didn’t play well in San Jose in early January, their first game without Nicklas Backstrom, but with the way the Southeast Division race is shaping up, winning home games is vital no matter the opponent.

The Florida Panthers are currently four points up on the Caps, sitting in first place in the Southeast.

“Everybody’s watching [the standings],” coach Dale Hunter said, “but we’ve got to win our games to make it were out right now and we need a big win tonight.”

The Caps head out for a four-game road trip at Florida, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Ottawa starting Friday. Given their 9-15-3 road record, winning almost every game at home from now on is crucial. It starts with Greiss and the Sharks.