Following a day off on Wednesday (which included several fun events around Columbus), the Blue Jackets reconvened this morning for an hour-long practice at Nationwide Arena.
It wasn't as sharp of a practice as coach Todd Richards would have liked, and there are still several areas he would like to see cleaned up before taking on the Washington Capitals tomorrow night at Nationwide. But the team game has been much better of late, Richards admitted, and they'll need to continue their good habits against a skilled, opportunistic Capitals team.
Speaking of Washington, the Capitals are spending a long weekend (essentially) in Columbus. They played in Pittsburgh last night, arrived in Columbus early this morning, will practice today and take a morning skate tomorrow. They're also scheduled to practice Saturday in Columbus before departing for New York.
The Blue Jackets are facing a team that has struggled of late, but the Capitals have had Columbus' number this season. They won the first meeting 4-1 at Verizon Center back in October, and stole one in overtime from the Blue Jackets in the most recent match-up (Nov. 12 at Verizon Center). The Blue Jackets had a late lead, let it slip away and Alex Ovechkin won the game in sudden death.
Safe to say the Blue Jackets don't have the fondest memories of the Capitals this season. They couldn't ask for a bigger opportunity to make amends on Friday night.
The words "huge" and "important" were used by several of the Blue Jackets today in describing Friday's game. With a potential four-point standings swing in the offing, there's not much room for an overstatement.
Other notes from today's skate:
- Cam Atkinson returned to practice today after missing Tuesday's skate. He blocked a shot during Monday's win over Tampa and was dinged up later in the game, so he sat out the Tuesday practice as a precaution. Full go today for him, back on a line with Dubinsky and Calvert.
- Fedor Tyutin was feeling ill this morning, Richards said, and he did not participate in practice. The team doesn't believe it to be anything serious at this time, and Tyutin's expected to be back for the morning skate tomorrow.
- Sergei Bobrovsky should get the start tomorrow for the Blue Jackets. The Capitals went with Michal Neuvirth against the Penguins, but they could go back to Philip Grubauer, who has played very well for them since being recalled earlier this season.
- Forward lines today: Foligno-Johansen-Umberger, Calvert-Dubinsky-Atkinson, Jenner-Anisimov-Horton, MacKenzie-Letestu-Tropp. Defense pairs were shuffled in Tyutin's absence: Johnson-Wisniewski, Murray-Nikitin and Savard rotated in with different pairings.