BLUE JACKETS (34-31-11) at CAPITALS (44-22-11)
TV: VERSUS (HD), CSN-DC (HD)
Columbus 3-5-2; Washington 7-2-1
This is the lone meeting between the teams. They last faced each other on April 3, 2010, when Washington earned a 3-2 victory at Nationwide Arena.
Six points up on Tampa Bay with five games remaining, the Capitals can take another step towards clinching the Southeast Division for a fourth straight year with a win against the Blue Jackets on Thursday night. Washington can also reach the 100-point plateau for a third consecutive season.
"As a group, I think we've come along, we've grown up," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We won't have 121 points this year but I think we're smarter as a group and maybe a little bit better as a team."
With virtually no hope of making the playoffs, Columbus will simply attempt to play spoiler against a Washington team that is just three points back of Philadelphia for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Blue Jackets, who trail Chicago by 11 points for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, are coming off a 3-2 shootout win against the Florida Panthers at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday night.
"We needed this win," rookie Maksim Mayorov
said after his club ended a four-game losing skid and a string of six straight home defeats. "We tried so hard, we worked so hard. We deserved this game."
While Washington came up short in a 3-2 shootout loss to Carolina at the Verizon Center on Tuesday night, Caps fans still had a reason to smile. Superstar forward Alex Ovechkin
returned to the lineup after missing three games due to an undisclosed injury. Prior to the injury, Ovechkin had 14 points in his previous 10 contests.
"It was pretty hard when you come back after three games sitting out," Ovechkin said. "But every shift, every period I felt better and better."
Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umberger
has 4 points (3 goals, 1 assist) in his last three games. … Caps center Alexander Semin
has 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists) in his last two contests.
For the Blue Jackets, forwards Chris Clark (lower body), Kristian Huselius
(ankle) and Andrew Murray (lower body) are day-to-day, while defenseman Anton Stralman (knee) is out. … Caps defenseman Dennis Wideman
is day-to-day with a leg injury, while fellow blueliners Tom Poti
(groin) and Mike Green
(concussion) are out.
Columbus had lost six straight shootouts before Tuesday's win. Prior to beating the Panthers, the Jackets' last shootout win was Jan. 14 against Detroit.
"These guys needed a win to lose that crappy feeling we've had for an extended period of time, especially at home. We were real good for most of the game. Guys aren't quitting, they're still playing hard and going after teams." -- Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel