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PRE GAME: vs. Washington

by Blue Jackets Staff / Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets will not make any changes to their line combinations for tonight’s game against the Capitals, as coach Scott Arniel liked the way his four lines played Thursday night in Dallas. That means the Rick Nash-Jeff Carter-Ryan Johansen line gets another opportunity together, as they were the Blue Jackets’ best line the other night. Steve Mason starts in goal for the Blue Jackets and it’s his third in a row. In his two previous starts, Mason is 1-0-1 with a 1.00 goals-against average.

Nikita Nikitin came down with the flu last night, so the Blue Jackets recalled David Savard from Springfield (AHL) in the event Nikitin cannot play.

Capitals coach Dale Hunter confirmed this morning that Tomas Vokoun is his starting goaltender tonight, and will make back-to-back starts for Washington. The Capitals played last night at home and beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1, a game in which Alex Ovechkin netted a pair of goals.

Here is the projected Capitals lineup for tonight’s game at Nationwide Arena:

Ovechkin Backstrom Semin
Johansson Halpern Brouwer
Chimera Laich Ward
Hendricks Eakin Knuble
Hamrlik Wideman
Erskine Orlov
Alzner Carlson
  1. Jump on the Caps early: Washington played last night (as we mentioned above), and has a middle-aged goaltender making his second start in as many nights. Vokoun’s had an up-and-down season, and the Blue Jackets need to pepper him early and make life miserable in and around his goal.
  2. Good between the blue lines: The neutral zone always requires special attention, but even more so when playing a dynamic transition team like the Capitals. Since Hunter took over in late November, Washington has been a more defensively-patient club that makes opponents pay for turnovers. The Blue Jackets must make calculated decision with the puck through the neutral zone.
  3. Play the team game: Columbus played one of its strongest road games of the year in Dallas and must replicate the “team” game tonight. The Capitals are arguably the best attacking team in the NHL, and the Blue Jackets need to counteract that by playing strong team defense and making sure each player is doing his job.

Arniel on the Capitals: “That’s a team that, especially the last 10 games, is really going. I think they’ve won four or five of their last six. They’re a different-looking team than what we’ve seen in years past. They’re a heavier team, a more physical, straight-line group. Their top line with Backstrom, Semin and Ovechkin has lots of offense, but if you look at their other three lines they’re big and heavy.”

Dale Hunter on playing the Blue Jackets: “They’ve been playing better. They beat Dallas and playyed well that game. We have to be ready for them…they’re hungry and want to win here. They need to put some wins together just like we do, so it’s one of those games where both teams are hungry for two points.”

Here are some tips for fans attending the game at Nationwide Arena tonight:

• Happy New Years! Doors will open early tonight at 5:30 p.m. for the 6:45 p.m. ceremonial puck drop.

• It’s a Tunnel of Pride night this evening. Look for the players to enter the ice from the Zamboni tunnel before they take on the Capitals.

• Speaking of ceremonial puck drop, Mayor Coleman and Councilwoman Priscilla Tyson are in the house tonight. Look for them sitting on the team bench during warm-ups, on the glass during the first period, and dropping the puck in honor of 200Columbus, the City of Columbus’ 200th Birthday.

• What better way to celebrate a birthday than with fireworks? Hang around after the game for an extra five minutes to witness an indoor fireworks show, which Nationwide Arena has NEVER seen.

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