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Blue Jackets, Capitals consider line changes

by Mike Battaglino /

BLUE JACKETS (2-4-0) at CAPITALS (2-5-0)


Season series: This is the first of four meetings. The Washington Capitals won the most-recent game, beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 at Nationwide Arena on Dec. 31, 2011.

Big story: The new Metropolitan Division rivals are off to a slow start again. The Capitals overcame a 1-5-1 beginning to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs and win the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference in 2012-13, but the Blue Jackets fell one point short in the Western Conference after opening 2-5-1.

Washington closes a five-game homestand prior to a five-game road trip that starts in Western Canada. Columbus will play eight of its next nine at home.

"Every game for us is huge right now," Capitals forward Martin Erat told Monumental Network on the team website. "It doesn't matter if we play home ... the points in October count the same in March. You have to get those points."

Team Scope:

Blue Jackets: Columbus has lost three in a row, the latest 5-3 to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. The Blue Jackets trailed 3-0, tied the game but couldn't stop the Canadiens.

"We got better [during the game], but it's a loss," forward Brandon Dubinsky said. "It's zero points. It's not [expletive] good enough. We have to find a way to turn some of these efforts, as some people call them, into points. Until we do that, it's just not good enough."

Boone Jenner scored his first two NHL goals, but his line with Dubinsky and Cam Atkinson finished a combined minus-8 and could be changed.

Columbus also plays Sunday at home against the Vancouver Canucks, so backup goalie Curtis McElhinney could start in place of Sergei Bobrovsky here.

Capitals: Washington shuffled its lines at practice Friday, which could give Erat the chance he hasn't really had since arriving last season in a trade from the Nashville Predators.

The left wing has no points in seven games, playing less than 10 minutes in all but one, after getting three points in nine games at the end of last season. He led the Predators in scoring in 2011-12 (58 points), and his 21 points in 36 games last season, third on the Predators, before the trade.

"It's been kind of different here for me," Erat said. "But it doesn't matter where I play, [the thing] is to win, and we need a win right now. Against Columbus, we have to be ready and we have to be 100 percent engaged and everybody has to be on the same page and get the two points."

Erat skated on the second line with Brooks Laich (moving to center) and Troy Brouwer. Mikhail Grabovski was moved down to the third line with Jason Chimera and Joel Ward.

Who's hot: Blue Jackets forward Ryan Johansen had a goal and an assist against the Canadiens. … Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin ranks second in the NHL in goals (six), though he had not scored in two of his past three.

Injury report: Blue Jackets forward Marian Gaborik (flu) practiced Friday after not playing Thursday. Forward Nick Foligno (personal reasons) is not with the team. Forward Matt Calvert (abdomen) is on injured reserve. … Capitals defenseman John Erskine (upper body) is questionable, and Jack Hillen (leg) is recovering from surgery.

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