GAME 78: BLUE JACKETS VS. CAPITALS
NATIONWIDE ARENA, 6:00 P.M.
TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO / FOX SPORTS GO
RADIO: 97.1 & BLUEJACKETS.COM
When the Washington Capitals come to Columbus this Sunday, there's a lot on the line for both teams.
A quick look at the Metro Division rankings shows why.
The Capitals currently sit atop the League and Metro Division standings with 110 points. The Jackets (49-20-8) have 106 points putting them just four points behind Washington. They also hold a one-point advantage over the Pittsburgh Penguins (47-19-11) who have 105 points on the season.
With the standings race as tight as it is, whichever team comes away from Sunday with two points directly impacts the rankings among the division's top teams.
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A Washington win builds their lead over the balance of teams in the league for the Presidents' Trophy and puts them closer to clinching the division title.
A Jackets win would put them closer to challenging for that top spot in the division, and could increase their lead in the standings over Pittsburgh going into Tuesday's head-to-head matchup between the Jackets and the Penguins.
That doesn't just matter for bragging rights, even if the Jackets are unable to claim first overall in the division, the second place team will have home ice advantage in the first round of post-season play.
Here are five things to watch for:
Washington is going to be hungry.
The Capitals have won six of their last seven games, including a 2-1 shootout win over the Jackets Mar. 23. But their one loss in that span came at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday in a 6-3 game that chased Braden Holtby from the net.
"We were junk," Washington head coach Barry Trotz said.
Look for D.C. to come out from the first faceoff aiming to prove they are not the team that played on Saturday.
Act like you belong there.
Sunday's game is the second of three games in a row that the Jackets face off against another 100-plus point team. It's the cream of the crop of the league playing against one another. The Jackets have earned their spot in that group, and they need to play like it.
Five games ago, in Washington, the team raised some concern on that topic. Sunday is the chance to prove they can answer the bell.
"In the Washington game I think we played, not tentative, but there were times where it was like 'are we supposed to be here?'" John Tortorella said. "We're supposed to be here. We've been a good team all year long. They have put themselves through a process of becoming one of the top teams in this league. I think they should play that way every night."
Video: Torts evaluates his team's play tonight
The Jackets didn't win Saturday's game versus Chicago, but they showed signs of getting back to the identity that has made them so successful through this season, including playing with more physicality. The Jackets need to show that they are dialed back into that style of game.
"I thought it's important for our club to have some physicality, some standing up for ourselves, some going to the net hard," Nick Foligno said. "We're a team that needs to find a way to play on that edge and we play our best when we do that."
Video: Foligno on showing improvement tonight
Shots on net.
Saturday was the first game in the Jackets' last five that they created the majority of shot attempts in five-on-five play (54.05%). But for a team that needs to get it's top offensive performers going again, it's not just about shot attempts, it's about getting more on target.
"I think one of the weak part of our games is we missed the net a lot (versus Chicago)," Tortorella said. "We could put the puck on net more and look for some rebounds."
Forward Oliver Bjorkstrand remains day-to-day and has missed the last five games due to an upper body injury. Center Lukas Sedlak left Saturday's game in the second period and did not return to play. The team had no update on his status after the 3-1 loss.
PROJECTED CBJ LINEUP:
Jenner - Wennberg - Saad
Foligno - Dubinsky - Atkinson
Calvert - Karlsson - Anderson
Hartnell - Sedlak - Gagner
Werenski - Jones
Johnson - Savard
Harrington - Nutivaara