CAPITALS (50-15-12) at BLUE JACKETS (32-33-13)
Last 10 --
Washington 5-2-3; Columbus 5-3-2
Season series --
Columbus won at Washington in overtime, 5-4, in the only previous meeting between the clubs this season.
Big story --
The last time the Capitals and Blue Jackets faced each other, Jason Chimera
, then with Columbus, collided with Alex Ovechkin
near the benches, causing the Capitals' superstar to strain his upper body. Ovechkin had to miss the next six games. Chimera, of course, now plays for the Capitals and will be playing in Columbus as an opponent for the first time since before the work stoppage when he was with the Oilers. Chimera has 16 points and a plus-7 rating in 34 games with the Caps since he was dealt to D.C. for Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina on Dec. 28.
A 2-1 win over Atlanta on Thursday night got them back on track after three straight defeats (0-1-2). Nicklas Backstrom
scored his 30th goal of the season and Matt Bradley got his ninth, and his first since Jan. 19, a span of 26 games. Semyon Varlamov made 19 saves for the win. Depending on what San Jose did Friday night, the Caps could potentially clinch the President's Trophy with a win in Columbus. They have 112 points and have already locked up the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Caps are also one victory shy of setting a new franchise record. They equaled the mark with their 50th win Thursday night. They can also set a new franchise record for road wins Saturday. They have 22 now, a number they've hit three times.
Blue Jackets --
They are just playing out the string, but they're doing it well. The Blue Jackets are 14th in the Western Conference and officially eliminated from playoff contention, but they had won three out of four before losing, 3-2, in Detroit on Thursday. Unfortunately, after facing the team that is likely to win the President's Trophy this season on Saturday, Columbus still has two more games left against the streaking Red Wings, who may not lose again this season. Jakub Voracek has eight goals and 13 assists along with a plus-6 rating in his last 19 games. He has 49 points this season. Steve Mason
is also playing better of late with four straight solid performances in goal, including a combined 71 saves in two wins over the Chicago Blackhawks.
Who's hot --
We already mentioned Voracek's hot stick and R.J. Umberger
has points in six straight games. … In Washington, Backstrom has 4 goals and 11 assists in the last 12 games.
Injury report --
The Capitals list Boyd Gordon (back), Jurcina (hernia), Scott Walker (knee) and Brendan Morrison (undisclosed) on their injury list. John Carlson
is also questionable for Saturday's game. … The Jackets lost defenseman Kris Russell
to an upper-body injury in Thursday's loss at Detroit. He's doubtful for Saturday's game. Meanwhile, Rostislav Klesla, Derek MacKenzie
, Jan Hejda, Jared Boll
and Clark will miss the remainder of the season.
Stat pack --
Columbus is 7-3-2 since a 6-0 loss at Los Angeles on March 8. The Jackets are 14-10-4 in the past 28 games after going 6-17-7 in their previous 30. They are also 11-3-3 record at Nationwide Arena since a 3-5-4 stretch.
Puck drop --
"There has been a lot of changes since I was last there," Chimera said of Columbus. "The coach is gone, a whole bunch of older guys are gone and the younger guys are left. I keep in touch with those guys so I'm sure there will be some razzing going on with those guys. Hopefully I get some cheers and not some boos from the crowd. It was a good time of my life. I really got my career started in Columbus and became a better player there. It's going to be fun going back, but it'll sure be different going on the other side."