Blue Jackets, Capitals playing well before meeting
WASHINGTON — With the Metropolitan Division bunched from top to bottom, games within the division take on an added importance, whether a team is on top of the heap or trying to move up in the standings.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have used a recent surge to sit atop the Metro, and they’ll look to keep up the pace when they visit the inconsistent Washington Capitals on Saturday in the first meeting this season between the teams.
“When you’re in the division, you know how important those four-point games are,” Washington coach Barry Trotz told reporters Friday.
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The Capitals have been playing better hockey as of late, having won four of six, but are coming off a 5-2 loss to the Kings on Thursday in which they were blitzed for two-goals in a nine-second span of the second period. But Washington is hoping that catching the Blue Jackets coming off a back-to-back will give them an advantage in the second game of its five-game homestand.
“You have to make sure you’re ready for a 60-minute effort,” forward Alex Chiasson told the team’s website. “Every team has to go through back-to-backs in this league. There are days you’re going to feel good on the back-to-back and days you’re not feeling great. Obviously, we aren’t playing (Friday), so we have to make sure we’re ready and set the tone in the first.”
Columbus has won eight of nine, including a 4-2 triumph Friday against Anaheim, to roll into first place with 35 points. The Blue Jackets have used stingy defense and solid goaltending from starter Sergei Bobrovsky and, in the last two contests, backup Joonas Korpisalo to make up for their offensive shortcomings.
Bobrovsky will be in the net Saturday, though Columbus coach John Tortorella said there was no advance maneuvering to make sure his top netminder was between the pipes against the Capitals.
“We decided to do it this way so Bob gets a day off and has a few days to work on his game without worrying about playing. We jumped on it,” Tortorella told reporters.
Winger Josh Anderson continued his hot start, scoring his team-high 10th goal of the season Friday, and the Blue Jackets finally found a way to convert on the power play after going 1-for-29 with the extra man in their last 12 games.
“You finish them when you can,” Anderson said. “For the most part, we’re just trying to get stick-on-puck.”
The Capitals are hoping that they can get center Nicklas Backstrom back in the scoring column, as the veteran is mired in a 19-game goal-scoring drought, including missing on a wide-open net against the Kings on Friday.
“Nicky’s going to score some goals,” Trotz said. “History will tell you that. He’s probably thinking about it a little bit. It’ll come.”
Columbus defenseman Matt Calvert will travel with the team to Washington and may see action after missing the last 12 games with an upper-body injury.
“It’s never fun sitting out that long, but you’ve got to get the injury right,” Calvert told the Blue Jackets’ TV crew in-between periods Friday. “Hopefully I can get myself into the game (Saturday).”