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PREVIEW: Blue Jackets at Capitals

Jackets head to Washington for a Playoff rematch

by Craig Merz @BlueJacketsNHL /

Memories, not good ones, of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs will come to the forefront again Friday in Washington when Blue Jackets play the Capitals for the first time since losing in the Eastern Conference First Round against the eventual champions.

The Blue Jackets, of course, lost in six games but it was how the gripping series unfolded that has left the scabs fresh. The Blue Jackets won the first two games in overtime at Washington and headed home with a chance to close out the series.

Washington won Game 3 in double overtime and the fourth game, 4-1. Back in D.C., the Capitals took Game 5 in overtime and then ended series at Nationwide Arena with a 6-3 win in Game 6.

Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said he still isn't over how it ended.

"I'm pissed off for our fans," he said Thursday. "We had a few opportunities to win a home game in the playoffs and I'm pissed off they can't enjoy that, even later in the series.

"We go up 2-0, Game 3 we played really well, we couldn't find a way to win it. Game 4 is the one that disturbs me. … To not to win a home game, that bugs me, because I want our players to feel that. I hope we can feel that someday here because this can be a terrific building to play in if we get to those situations, not just once, but often."

Captain Nick Foligno gives full marks to the Capitals for the way they handled adversity but noted the series was the Blue Jackets' for the taking.

"That was probably the weirdest part of the series, all the games both teams deserved to win they didn't and the one game we deserved to lose, we did," he said. "That was the difference in the series. That was Game 4.

"We just did not play well that game and they beat us. Every other game it was like the team that outplayed the other team lost."

Game 4 was a disaster for the Blue Jackets, but the prior game was the one that pivoted the momentum to the Capitals. Artemi Panarin hit the post with 1:15 left in regulation of the tie game and Cam Atkinson sent a shot off the crossbar deep into the first OT.

Lars Eller got the winner in the second overtime when his shot went off Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski.

That goal is not the one Werenski replays repeatedly in his head.

"Before that play we had two or three chances to win the game and I was one of the chances," he said.

Werenski was talking about taking a pass from Foligno in the first OT and sending a shot over the crossbar.

"We score there and we're up 3-0 (in the series)," Werenski said. "At that point I think we put the series away. That eats at me more than a puck that bounces. That's just a bad bounce."

Foligno said the Blue Jackets have talked how that series showed them what's needed to be champions - a sort of you must lose before you win mentality - but he's not seen the team take those necessary steps.

"I thought we'd come out with something to prove and not worry about the battle and compete level we haven't had," he said. "That should be standard with the feeling we all had after Washington and what I heard guys saying, and how that team (Washington) upped their compete and their battle and we didn't to a degree."

Coming off a 4-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday and now readying to face their playoff nemesis again should provide the Blue Jackets with the ingredients not to let their level of play slip again.

"Last year them stealing four in a row from us, that definitely fuels us a little bit," Werenski said.

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Werenski and longtime partner Seth Jones were separated in the second period against Dallas when Werenski was sent to the third pairing with Dean Kukan. Jones played with Ryan Murray on the top unit while Markus Nutivaara and David Savard were the second combo.

At practice Thursday the only change was that Scott Harrington replaced Kukan and he could return after being a one-game scratch.

Tortorella said Werenski struggled in the game and the staff wanted to ease the pressure on the third-year player.

"I have full faith in that guy. He's a terrific player. He'll find his confidence," Tortorella said. "As we always talk about, you never know where it goes sometimes. He's a huge part of this team. He's a terrific defenseman in this league."

Werenski said he was surprised that he was dropped in the rotation but is ready to move on

"During the game it kind of felt like a demotion a little bit," he said. "It's motivation to play better and be better. I'm going to use it in a good way and try to work harder and become a better player because of it."

While he and Jones have been paired for the past two-plus seasons, Jones and Murray were a tandem before Werenski came to the NHL.

"We're very comfortable together. I've played over 30 games with (Murray)," Jones said. "We both move the puck and can skate well."

Blue Jackets projected lineup

Artemi Panarin -- Pierre-Luc Dubois -- Cam Atkinson

Nick Foligno -- Boone Jenner -- Josh Anderson

Riley Nash -- Brandon Dubinsky -- Markus Hannikainen

Lukas Sedlak -- Alexander Wennberg -- Anthony Duclair

Ryan Murray -- Seth Jones

Markus Nutivaara -- David Savard

Zach Werenski -- Scott Harrington

Sergei Bobrovsky

Joonas Korpisalo

Scratched: F Adam Clendening, D Dean Kukan, F Oliver Bjorkstrand

Injured: None

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