GAME 53: CAPITALS (30-17-5) AT BLUE JACKETS (27-21-4)
Location: Nationwide Arena, 7 P.M., Tuesday
TV: Fox Sports Ohio/Fox Sports Go; NBCSWA
Radio: 97.1 FM & BlueJackets.com
The Blue Jackets are winless in their past three games (0-2-1), were swept in a back-to-back this past weekend and have a 4-5-1 record in their past 10 games.
Also, the next two games are set up as a home-and-home against the Washington Capitals, who lead the Metropolitan Division. If there's any team that needs an emotional boost, it's Columbus, which has nine more games left against Metro teams this month and needs to stack points in a tightly-packed division.
That's why, coming off a 4-3 loss Saturday against the New York Islanders - in which the Blue Jackets lost a pair of one-goal leads - the focus at practice Monday was about the positives from that game.
"I've got probably 35 [video] clips of good things we did last game," coach John Tortorella said. "That's the most important thing for our team to see right now."
The Blue Jackets dominated the first period against the Islanders. They put a whopping 26 shots on goal, setting a new franchise record for shots in one period, and scored the first goal of the game on a power play early on.
They also allowed a power-play goal in the first, which tied it 1-1 at the first intermission. After falling behind, 2-1, the Blue Jackets retook the lead on goals by Cam Atkinson and captain Nick Foligno, only to fall behind for good in the first five minutes of the third, when New York scored back-to-back goals.
"We had a two-minute span in the third period where we lose the hockey game right there," Tortorella said. "Really, we self-destructed on that third goal, and [then] we can't kill a penalty. But I'm not interested in showing any of that stuff … I want to show them how aggressive we were and some of the good things we did. We've got to get them into a swagger type of attitude. I thought we showed that through all three periods, even though we lose the game."
They'll need some swagger against the Capitals, who are coming off regulation losses in their past two games. In a wider scope, Washington poses a more daunting challenge. The Capitals have 65 points, and lead the New Jersey Devils by three points for first in the Metro.
They're also 12-5-4 in their past 21 games, which includes two four-game winning streaks.
"This is a big month for our team here," Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson said. "You see our conference and how big the points are. We've got to start winning hockey games here, because if we don't, we're not going to be in the playoffs. We've got to take it one game at a time right now, and start putting points in the bank."
2017-18 Season: (0-1-0). This is the second of four games this season. The Capitals won, 4-3, on Dec. 2 in the first one. They will host the Blue Jackets on Friday, and then return to Columbus Feb. 26 for the finale.
All-time (W-L-T-O): 11-15-1-6 overall; 7-7-0-3 at Nationwide Arena
Capitals: Evgeny Kuznetsov had an assist in the Capitals' 4-3 loss Sunday to the Vegas Golden Knights to extend his point streak to four games. Kuznetsov has six points (one goal, five assists) during the streak.
Blue Jackets: Cam Atkinson had a game-high eight shots and a goal against the Islanders to extend his point streak to four games since returning Jan. 25 from a broken bone in his right foot. He has four points (two goals, two assists) during the streak.
EYES ON: THE CAPITALS
- Capitals center Nicklas Backstom is approaching some impressive career milestones. He's just one goal away from 200 in his NHL career, and three assists away from passing Shane Doan and Frank Mahovlich in that category. That would rank Backstrom 100th all-time in the NHL.
- Left wing Alex Ovechkin is one game-winning goal away from tying Jarome Iginla (101) for eighth all-time in the NHL. Ovechkin has 32 goals, and is on pace to score 51. If he does, it will be the eighth 50-goal season of his NHL career, putting him one behind Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky, who each finished their careers with nine. Ovechkin is the only other player with seven, and has 590 career goals. If he scores 10 more goals in the next 25 games, Ovechkin will become the fourth player in NHL history to reach the 600-goal plateau in less than 1,000 career games.
- Washington has yet to lose a game in regulation when leading after the first and second periods. The Capitals are 18-0-1 when leading after the first 20 minutes of the game, and 20-0-2 when leading after the second. They're also 13-3-5 in one-goal games and 17-2-2 when scoring first.
EYES ON: THE BLUE JACKETS
- The Blue Jackets have allowed a power-play goal in 11 of their past 16 games, going 24-of-40 in that span (60 percent). They started the season as one of the top penalty-killing teams in the NHL, especially on home ice, but have dropped to 27th overall (75.7 percent) in the past six weeks. "It's hurt us," Tortorella said. "Anytime the puck goes in the net, it hurts you, but I saw our penalty killing really good this year, when we climbed to third or fourth [in the NHL]. We can get back to that. We have the people that can do that."
- The power play is a different story . Columbus is 7-of-23 in the past 10 games (30.4 percent), which ranks fifth in the NHL over that span. Since Dec. 8, nearly two months ago, they're 14-of-65 and rank 13th in the league at 21.5 percent. Columbus has scored a power-play goal in three of its past four games, and in six of the past 10.
- Tortorella was pleased with the balance of the forward lines Saturday, including an impressive night from the recently-formed third line of Josh Anderson, Boone Jenner and center Brandon Dubinsky. Anderson, who's back to the right-wing spot where he began the season, scored a goal against New York - his first NHL power-play goal in 146 games. He was also noticeable most of the game, using his size (6-foot-3, 221 pounds) and speed to chase down pucks. "I always want to be physical, and that's part of my game," Anderson said. "Maybe I got away from that a little bit [on the top line], but seeing [Jenner and Dubinsky] go out there and forecheck, and get on the body, it just makes you want to do the same thing."
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Matt Niskanen - Dmitri Orlov
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey
Others: Taylor Chorney, Alex Chiasson
Injured Reserve: None
Artemi Panarin - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson
Oliver Bjorkstrand - Alexander Wennberg - Nick Foligno
Boone Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky - Josh Anderson
Matt Calvert - Lukas Sedlak - Jussi Jokinen
Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
Jack Johnson - Markus Nutivaara
Dean Kukan - David Savard
Others: Scott Harrington
Injured reserve: Ryan Murray (upper body), Sony Milano (torn oblique)