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Preview: Capitals at Blue Jackets

Washington can take six-point lead on Columbus in race for Metropolitan Division title

by Craig Merz / Correspondent

CAPITALS (51-18-8) at BLUE JACKETS (49-20-8)

6 p.m. ET; FS-O, CSN-DC+, NHL.TV 


Capitals team scope

The Washington Capitals look to extend their Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference lead to six points over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Capitals are four points ahead of the Blue Jackets; each has five games remaining but this is the last against each other. Washington has two more regulation/overtime wins (ROW), which is the first tiebreaker at the end of the season. The Capitals have a three-point lead on the Chicago Blackhawks for the Presidents' Trophy with one game in hand and three more ROW. The Capitals' 6-3 loss at the Arizona Coyotes on Friday was their first in regulation in nine games (7-1-1), since March 12 at the Anaheim Ducks. "We've got away from the things we were having success with," goaltender Braden Holtby said after the game. "To be honest, the last two periods here, we got back to that. It was a bit of a wake-up call. Maybe it was a good thing at this time because we've got a big game against Columbus." The Capitals look forward to the challenge of playing the Blue Jackets with Stanley Cup Playoffs positioning at stake. "You should be happy you're playing big games this time of the year. Columbus is a big one," forward Justin Williams said Friday. Washington knows the gap could have been bigger; Columbus lost 3-1 at the Blackhawks on Friday. "We've been working all year to try to get some separation," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said Friday. "We had an opportunity and we let it slip away." Forward Alex Ovechkin is two goals from tying Guy Lafleur (560) for 25th place on the NHL list and is tied with Alexander Mogilny (1,032 points) for second place in scoring among Russia-born players in the NHL, trailing Sergei Fedorov (1,179).


Blue Jackets team scope

Columbus not only has to worry about catching Washington but also falling into third place in the Metropolitan Division. The Blue Jackets lead the Pittsburgh Penguins by one point; each has five games to play, with Columbus having four more regulation/overtime wins. After a 2-1 overtime loss at the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday and a 3-1 loss at Chicago on Friday, the Blue Jackets will try to avoid their first-three game losing streak of the season. "At this time of the year, I just want us to try and play the right way," coach John Tortorella said Friday. "We played the right way tonight. The Blue Jackets complete a stretch of playing the other three top teams in the NHL when they play at Pittsburgh on Tuesday. "No disrespect to some of the other teams. Some of the other teams are out and just aren't as good these three teams and you end up playing at a slower pace and you kind of get caught up in that," Tortorella said. "It's really good we're playing these teams and we're playing teams even later after these that there's going to be a lot on the line for them."


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: Paul Carey, Taylor Chorney, Nate Schmidt

Injured: None


Blue Jackets projected lineup

Brandon Saad -- Alexander Wennberg -- Nick Foligno

Boone Jenner -- Brandon Dubinsky -- Cam Atkinson

Matt Calvert -- William Karlsson -- Josh Anderson

Scott Hartnell -- Sam Gagner -- Lauri Korpikoski

Zach Werenski -- Seth Jones

Jack Johnson -- David Savard

Scott Harrington -- Kyle Quincey

Sergei Bobrovsky

Joonas Korpisalo

Scratched: Markus Nutivaara

Injured: Ryan Murray (hand), Oliver Bjorkstrand (upper body), Lukas Sedlak (upper body)


Status report

Sedlak was injured in the second period Friday. Korpikoski could take his place with Gagner moving from wing to center.

Who's hot

Backstrom has 16 points (two goals, 14 assists) in his past 10 games. … Johansson has 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in a five-game point streak. … Oshie has 10 points (six goals, four assists) in his past seven games. … Ovechkin has eight points (five goals, three assists) in his past seven games. … Bobrovsky is 10-1-2 with 15 goals allowed and four shutouts in his past 13 starts.

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