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At the Rink: Blue Jackets at Capitals

by Adam Vingan

ARLINGTON, Va. -- During the Washington Capitals' back-to-back wins over the weekend, Jay Beagle served as Tom Wilson's first-line understudy.

When coach Barry Trotz thought Wilson had "heavy legs" in the third period against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday, Beagle replaced him with the Capitals clinging to a one-goal lead.

Against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, Beagle ate up some of Wilson's ice time after the latter sustained a lower-body injury late in the first period.

With Wilson out for Washington's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, Beagle will fill in once again, skating on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

"It's what you want," Beagle said. "You want to play against the other team's top guys and the other team's top D-pairings. In the past, when I've got chances to play against top guys, it's been rewarding after games. If you do a good job, it's a lot of fun to know that you helped the team get a big win. I look forward to the challenge."

Beagle has made cameos on Washington's first line in each of the past two seasons. In 2012-13, he was one-third of an unconventional grouping featuring Ovechkin and Joey Crabb before centering Ovechkin again late last season.

The results were subpar; in 109:23 of shared ice time last season, Beagle and Ovechkin's Corsi-for percentage was 42.6, according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com. Each had better puck-possession statistics when apart. Ovechkin did not have any 5-on-5 points on 17 shots alongside Beagle.

Unlike the previous scenarios, Beagle will shift to right wing with Backstrom in the middle. That should simplify Beagle's already straightforward style, leaving him to doggedly hunt pucks and take key faceoffs.

"It's just a mindset of maybe holding [onto] the puck a little more, being a little more patient with it, looking to get it to [Backstrom] or [Ovechkin], maybe a little quicker instead of a cycle," Beagle said. "It's little things that happen in the offensive zone where you have to think more offensively.

"We want to push the pace, and that's what we've been talking about. When we get the lead, we sit back and they come to us. We want to push the pace and play in their zone. I think that's my game. I want to grind it out down in their end and create space for them. Let them make those plays they're so good at making."

Beagle's first goal of the season Saturday, the 14th of his 201-game career, provided an example of what the Capitals are looking for. He chased down a missed shot and banked it in off Hurricanes goaltender Anton Khudobin's left pad from below the goal line.

"Everybody knows, he's hard-working guy," Ovechkin said. "If he has a chance, he might score one or two. He's right now, goal-scorer."

The banged-up Blue Jackets will attempt to snap their eight-game losing streak (0-7-1) missing several players because of injury and defenseman Jack Johnson, who will serve the final game of his three-game suspension.

Defenseman Fedor Tyutin, whose status was questionable, told The Columbus Dispatch that he will play. Jack Skille, also originally a game-time decision, won't play with an undisclosed injury.

Here are the projected lineups:

BLUE JACKETS

Brian GibbonsRyan JohansenNick Foligno

Scott HartnellBoone JennerCam Atkinson

Corey TroppAlexander WennbergAdam Cracknell

Dana TyrellMichael ChaputJared Boll

Tim ErixonJames Wisniewski

Fedor TyutinDavid Savard

Frederic St. DenisDalton Prout

Curtis McElhinney

Anton Forsberg

Scratched: Jack Johnson (suspension)

Injured: Artem Anisimov (concussion), Brandon Dubinsky (lower body), Mark Letestu (groin), Matt Calvert (upper body), Jack Skille (undisclosed), Nathan Horton (back), Ryan Murray (knee), Cody Goloubef (knee), Sergei Bobrovsky (finger)

CAPITALS

Alex OvechkinNicklas BackstromJay Beagle

Marcus JohanssonAndre BurakovskyTroy Brouwer

Jason ChimeraEric FehrJoel Ward

Liam O'BrienEvgeny KuznetsovMichael Latta

Brooks OrpikJohn Carlson

Karl AlznerMatt Niskanen

Nate SchmidtMike Green

Braden Holtby

Justin Peters

Scratched: Jack Hillen

Injured: Brooks Laich (shoulder), Tom Wilson (lower body), Aaron Volpatti (upper body), Dmitry Orlov (wrist), John Erskine (neck surgery)

Status report: Wilson said that his lower-body injury is unrelated to his surgically repaired left ankle. "It's just a tweak and hopefully if we can take care of it, I'll recover pretty quick here," he said. Trotz said that Wilson and Laich could potentially return Friday against the New Jersey Devils.

Who's hot: Hartnell has four goals in his past two games, scoring two in each. … Ward leads the Capitals with seven goals, scoring three in his past four games.

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