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Looking to end skid, Blue Jackets adjust lines

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- Teams familiar with streaks good and bad will play Thursday at Nationwide Arena when the Columbus Blue Jackets host the Washington Capitals.

The Capitals have won two straight after a 0-5-2 stretch, with the final five losses coming in regulation. Included was a 5-1 defeat in Columbus on Jan. 17 that was the Blue Jackets' fifth win of a team-record eight-game winning streak.

Since winning those eight straight games, however, the Blue Jackets have lost three in a row.

"We need to stop it now while we're still in the race," Columbus forward Nathan Horton said.

Columbus (26-23-4) and Washington (24-21-8) each have 56 points, but the Blue Jackets own the fifth spot in the Metropolitan Division because of more regulation/overtime wins.

The roles seem reversed from the teams' previous game.

"It's a better mindset than the last time we were in this barn," Capitals goalie Braden Holtby said.

Holtby will make his third consecutive start Thursday, with backup Michal Neuvirth likely to play Friday at the Detroit Red Wings. Holtby made 23 saves in 5-4 overtime win Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres.

"Two wins hopefully gets his confidence going," Capitals coach Adam Oates said of Holtby. "At the same time both guys are going to play games. We need both guys playing well. [Thursday] makes sense [for Holtby]. He's had plenty of rest."

There are no other expected changes for the Capitals.

The Blue Jackets will return to starter Sergei Bobrovsky in goal after backup Curtis McElhinney lost 3-2 to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.

There will be one move among the skaters, with right wing Corey Tropp replacing Blake Comeau on the fourth line, but Columbus coach Todd Richards has shaken up the combinations. In a swap of centers, leading scorer Ryan Johansen will play alongside Boone Jenner and Horton, and Artem Anisimov will be in the middle with Nick Foligno and RJ Umberger.

"It's just like in any type of relationship. You've got to do things to spice things up a little bit," Richards said.

The old lines had been together through the winning streak but Richards knew it wouldn't last.

"In reality it's probably not going to happen," he said. "With success you're probably going to have some bumps so you have to deal with the bumps.

"There comes a point when we'll go back and have the same lines we had four games ago. Is it tomorrow? Is it tonight? Is it two weeks from now? That's going to be the next question."

Johansen, who has 19 goals and 19 assists, is looking forward to the challenge.

"I played with [Foligno] and Umberger for a long time," he said. "Now I get to play with two other great hockey players. It will be different. It will be fun. Hopefully we can get some chemistry right away."

Richards also said defenseman David Savard is feeling better but will miss his fourth straight game because of illness. Cody Goloubef once again will take his spot.

The projected lineups for both teams:


Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin

Martin Erat - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

Eric Fehr - Casey Wellman - Joel Ward

Karl Alzner - John Carlson

Dmitry OrlovMike Green

John Erskine - Connor Carrick

Braden Holtby

Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Ryan Stoa, Aaron Volpatti

Injured: Jack Hillen (broken leg), Mikhail Grabovski (knee)


Boone Jenner - Ryan Johansen - Nathan Horton

Nick Foligno - Artem Anisimov - RJ Umberger

Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson

Derek MacKenzie - Mark Letestu - Corey Tropp

Fedor Tyutin - Jack Johnson

Ryan Murray - James Wisniewski

Nikita Nikitin - Cody Goloubef

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: David Savard, Tim Erixon, Blake Comeau

Injured: Marian Gaborik (broken collarbone), Jared Boll (ankle surgery)

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