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Preview: Blue Jackets at Capitals

Columbus could take over first place in Metropolitan Division, Eastern Conference with regulation win

by Katie Brown / NHL.com Correspondent

BLUE JACKETS (47-19-6) at CAPITALS (47-17-8)

7 p.m. ET; FS-O, CSN-DC, NHL.TV

 

Blue Jackets team scope

The Columbus Blue Jackets would move into a first-place tie with the Washington Capitals with a regulation win and a regulation loss by the Pittsburgh Penguins, who play at the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. Columbus is two points behind the Washington Capitals and one behind Pittsburgh in the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference. The Blue Jackets play the second of a back to back after a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday. "The Leafs got to a level faster than us and that can't be the case," captain Nick Foligno told the Columbus Dispatch. "We're a team that needs to play at a high level all the time. That's what's great about this game is we have a chance in Washington to get back on track, and we've done a good job of that all season." Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky will start. Bobrovsky is 7-0-0 with eight goals allowed and three shutouts in his past seven starts, and first in the NHL with 39 wins, a 2.04 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. Columbus is 4-1-0 in its past five games and 12-4-1 in its past 17.

 

Capitals team scope

The Capitals will increase their lead on the Blue Jackets to four points with a regulation win. Washington is 3-1-0 in its past four games after a four-game losing streak. "Obviously it's very important for us to be mentally ready for playoffs," forward Alex Ovechkin said. "We just have to send a message and play our style of game. Right now, it's important that you have to get home-ice advantage. I think in the playoffs it's an important thing. It's been a fun year. We've obviously had a great year. Season's gonna be over in 10 games. That's why we play hockey, to play in the playoffs and try to get the [Stanley] Cup." Ovechkin is two goals from tying Johnny Bucyk for 26th place on the NHL's goal scoring list (556). Goalie Braden Holtby will start. Washington's 29 home wins are tied with Pittsburgh for the League lead and one from tying its record for most in a season set in 1985-86 and 2009-10.

 

Blue Jackets projected lineup

Nick Foligno -- Alexander Wennberg -- Cam Atkinson

Brandon Saad -- Sam Gagner -- Scott Hartnell

Boone Jenner -- Brandon Dubinsky -- Josh Anderson 

Lukas Sedlak -- William Karlsson -- Matt Calvert 

Zach Werenski -- Seth Jones

Jack Johnson -- David Savard

Kyle Quincey -- Markus Nutivaara

Sergei Bobrovsky

Joonas Korpisalo

Scratched: Lauri Korpikoski, Scott Harrington

Injured: Ryan Murray (hand), Oliver Bjorkstrand (undisclosed)

 

Capitals projected lineup

Alex Ovechkin -- Nicklas Backstrom -- T.J. Oshie 

Marcus Johansson -- Evgeny Kuznetsov -- Justin Williams

Brett Connolly -- Lars Eller -- Andre Burakovsky

Daniel Winnik -- Jay Beagle -- Tom Wilson

Karl Alzner -- John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov -- Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik -- Kevin Shattenkirk

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer

Scratched: Taylor Chorney, Nate Schmidt

Injured: None

 

Status report

Bjorkstrand is not with the Blue Jackets after taking a hard check from Maple Leafs defenseman Roman Polak on Wednesday.

 

Who's hot

Backstrom has 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in his past five games. … Ovechkin has seven points (two goals, five assists) in five games. … Werenski has eight points (two goals, six assists) in seven games. … Gagner has nine points (four goals, five assists) in his past 10 games.

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