Nov. 9 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets at Capital One Arena
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, FAN 106.7
Columbus Blue Jackets 8-6-1
Washington Capitals 7-4-3
Owning a three-game point streak (2-0-1) and coming off consecutive wins for the first time this season, the Capitals continue their homestand on Friday night with a visit from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The five-game homestand started inauspiciously last Saturday with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars, a sloppy game on Washington's part, but one in which it was able to dig its way out of a two-goal deficit to scrape a standings point. The Caps have followed with wins over Edmonton and Pittsburgh, respectively.
"It feels great," says Caps center Nicklas Backstrom. "We haven't been here before this season. I think overall, in the locker room here, we feel like this is a big week for us. We are playing really good hockey teams, and division teams, too. So you've just got to keep going. For us as a team, we like to play every other day so hopefully we can take advantage of that."
The Caps turned in a sturdy 60-minute performance in Monday's win over the Oilers, but they were lackluster two nights later against the Penguins, needing the netminding heroics of Braden Holtby and the tenacity of T.J. Oshie to overcome a Pittsburgh team that vastly outplayed them. Holtby stopped a season-high 41 shots and Oshie came back from two separate in-game injuries to score the game-winning goal with 74 seconds remaining.
They've got a modest little run started, but consistency continues to elude the Caps.
"It's one thing that we've been battling this year," says Holtby, "and we kind of knew that it was one of the things that was going to be a challenge for us, making sure that our drive and motivation was up at the start of the season when the playoffs are so far away, because these points mean a ton right now."
Now, the Capitals face the Jackets for the first time in '18-19, and this will be the second time this season Washington has played consecutive contests against two of its vanquished foes from the 2018-19 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Caps lost 7-6 in overtime to the Pens in Pittsburgh on Oct. 4 and defeated Vegas in the District on Oct. 10.
"We've had a pretty difficult schedule I would say," says Caps defenseman John Carlson, "not that that is any excuse. I think we've been middling way too much and consistency hasn't been there.
"There are a whole lot of reasons for it, but it's nice to get a little streak going. Those are important, especially when you're kind of .500-ish - one up, one down; one up, one down - and you can put together a streak. I think those are big for teams no matter when they come throughout the season. If we can start reeling off some games, I think at the end of the year it always seems to be the difference."
Holtby picked up his first win in four starts against the Pens - but he had to react to 78 total Pittsburgh shot attempts in his busiest night of the season to date. The Pens poured 41 shots on Holtby when the two teams met earlier this season in Pittsburgh.
In the last two games, the Caps have surrendered a total of only three goals, and just one at five-on-five.
Columbus comes into town having earned a point in five of its last seven games (4-2-1). Most recently, the Jackets took a 4-1 home ice decision from Dallas on Tuesday. Columbus got a 27-save outing from goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky in the win over the Stars. Like Holtby, Bobrovsky is a former Vezina Trophy winner who has had some ups and downs early this season. Bobrovsky has permitted exactly one goal in three of his last four appearances, one of which was a 45-minute relief effort. He owns a .944 save pct. over those four outings.
Over the summer, the Jackets signed winger Anthony Duclair, a transaction that has paid early dividends. Duclair has six goals - three of them on the power play - in 15 games, and his extra-man tally in the win over Dallas broke a 2-for-38 slide for the Jackets. Duclair scored 20 goals in his first full season in the league, with Arizona in 2015-16. Nearly a third (14 of 43) of his career goals have come on the power play.
The Jackets missed the services of defenseman Seth Jones and center Brandon Dubinsky for a few weeks each earlier in the season, but they appear to be at peak health for Friday's quick visit to D.C. Columbus returns home immediately after the game; the Jackets host the Rangers on Saturday night in Ohio.