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Jackets swap centers in order to jump-start offense

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

During their eight-game winning streak, the Blue Jackets benefitted from continuity with their lineup and in turn, saw consistent results in the scoring department.

Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards doesn't necessarily believe that what goes up must come down in terms of line combinations and offensive success, but sometimes lines can get "stale," he said, and there comes a time when they need shuffled.

In the midst of a three-game skid, that time is now for the Blue Jackets.

When Columbus takes on the Washington Capitals tonight in a mucho-important Metropolitan Division game, the lines will look slightly different and their defense pairings will be the same as Monday and Tuesday. Ryan Johansen, who has centered a line with RJ Umberger and Nick Foligno for the better part of the last two seasons, will swap spots with Artem Anisimov tonight in an effort to jump-start the offense.

Anisimov will skate between Umberger and Foligno, while Johansen will start with Boone Jenner on his left wing and Nathan Horton on the right. Johansen might be one of the players Richards is referring to: he's got two points (goal and an assist) in the last four games, and in those games, the Blue Jackets are 1-3-0.

A potential alliance with Horton, who has also struggled offensively of late (no points in the last three games) could be a good thing for Johansen, who's looking forward to the opportunity to center one of the game's elite power forwards.

"It's going to be different...I've played with (Foligno and Umberger) for a long time now," Johansen told "But I get to play with two great hockey players. I'm looking forward to it; it'll be fun and a bit of a change but hopefully we can get some chemistry going right away and we'll see where it goes."

Johansen did say, thought, that he hasn't been sitting around in anticipation of his chance to play with Horton - but he understands that changes occur when things aren't going well.

"I haven't necessarily been waiting for it, but he's such an elite player and in the back of my mind I thought it'd cool to play with him at some point," Johansen said. "My other line mates and I were having a lot of success, too; who knows how long this is going to last, you know? But this is an exciting thing for us and we want to get something going for the team.

"I'm playing with other big, strong boys tonight. We're going to try and grind them down low, make some plays in the offensive zone and be a hard group to play against. We have to use our strengths and be smart out there."

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