GAME 54: BLUE JACKETS (27-22-4) AT CAPITALS (31-17-5)
Location: Capital One Arena, 7 P.M., Friday
TV: Fox Sports Ohio/Fox Sports Go; NBCSWA
Radio: 97.1 FM & BlueJackets.com
The schedule has become a little daunting for the Blue Jackets, who are winless in four straight games and clinging to the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The next three games are against Metropolitan Division opponents, including both ends of a weekend back-to-back that begins with a rematch Friday against the Capitals. Seven of the Jackets' next eight games will be divisional matchups, and the next nine are against Eastern Conference teams.
The upside is that it's a chance to quickly climb back into a good position within the division standings, which are tightly packed. The downside is the four-game skid (0-3-1), which was preceded by an extended stretch of .500 hockey, could continue to grow.
They're mostly back to full strength, but the margin for error is ultra-thin right now.
"Eventually, we're going to have to go on a run," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. "These teams that are bunched, the team that gets off on a run here is going to solidify themselves into a [playoff] spot. Eventually we're going to have to do that, but we're just going to take it one day at a time, and not look at the big picture."
They're trying to erase the memory of their last game, as well.
Nicklas Backstrom scored the game-winning goal for. The Capitals on Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena with just 43 seconds left in the third period, giving Washington a 3-2 win after Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky had tied it five minutes earlier.
Tortorella described it as a "kick in the stomach," afterward, but said resilience will be the key for Columbus to break out of the current funk.
"It's going to be a grind," Tortorella said. "I'm not sure where we come out at the end, but it's certainly an opportunity to find out something about yourself as a coach, an individual coach and a coaching staff; individual player and team concept as a team, to find out what you can do here. Because every night, it's going to be highlighted. Every game is going to be an important game."
2017-18 Season: (0-2-0). This is the third of four games this season. The Capitals won, 4-3, on Dec. 2 in the first game and 3-2 on Tuesday in the second meeting. The finale of the series for this season will be held Feb. 26 at Nationwide Arena.
All-time (W-L-T-O): 11-16-1-6 overall; 4-9-1-3 at Capital One Arena
Blue Jackets: David Savard scored the opening goal of the game Tuesday against the Capitals. It was Savard's fourth goal of the season, and second in a four-game window.
Capitals: Kuznetsov assisted on Washington's first goal Tuesday against the Blue Jackets, which extended his point streak to a season-high five games. Kuznetsov has seven points (one goal, six assists) during the streak.
EYES ON: THE BLUE JACKETS
- The Blue Jackets' struggle to kill penalties is becoming well-documented. They've given up a power-play goal in each of their past six games and have allowed a power-play goal in 14 of their past 20, going just 31-of-52 (59.6 percent). Columbus started out as one of the top penalty-killing teams in the NHL this season, especially on home ice, but is 27th overall now (75.2 percent).
- This trip to Washington is the Father's Trip for the Blue Jackets, who were able to bring their dads along Thursday and Friday. Dads from all over the globe are part of the Jackets' travel contingent for the junket, including Sergei Bobrovsky's father from Russia and Markus Nutivaara's father, from Finland. "It can't hurt us right now," Tortorella said of the dads tagging along. "Maybe they get some juice that they're playing in front of their dad. I do think it's important."
- Columbus assigned goalie Joonas Korpisalo to the Cleveland Monsters of the American Hockey League on Wednesday. Goalie Jeff Zatkoff, acquired by the Blue Jackets in a trade Jan. 22 with the Los Angeles Kings, was recalled. Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to start Friday.
EYES ON: THE CAPITALS
- Center Andre Burakovsky played just 6:34 against Columbus on Tuesday and didn't take a shift in the third period. His extended absence from the ice was the result of a decision by coach Barry Trotz, not an injury. It will be interesting to see where Trotz puts Burakovsky, who has just 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 28 games this season. Burakovsky, who missed 22 games because of a broken thumb (Oct. 26 to Dec. 6), has logged at least 35 points in each of the past two seasons.
- Left wing Alex Ovechkin, who had two assists Tuesday, is on pace to score 51 goals. 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, who has 590 career goals, is the only other player with seven 50-goal campaigns. If he scores 10 more goals in the next 24 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 or second periods. The Capitals are 18-0-1 when leading after the first 20 minutes of the game, and 21-0-2 when leading after the second. They're also 14-3-5 in one-goal games.
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)
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Lars Eller - Brett Connolly
Devante Smith-Pelly - Jay Beagle - Chandler Stephenson
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Matt Niskanen - Dmitri Orlov
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey
Others: Taylor Chorney, Alex Chiasson
Injured Reserve: None