Pregame #78: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

Washington Capitals (44-22-11) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (34-31-11)
Location: Verizon Center
7:00 PM
TV:  Local: Comcast SportsNet (HD) (Game On!), National: Versus (HD)
Radio:  1500AM, 820 AM, and XM
Preseason Games*:
Sep 22, 2010 WSH@CBJ 6-2 W*
Oct 1, 2010 CBJ@WSH 5-3 W*
Games Remaining: None
Friendly Faces of Former Capitals:  Chris Clark (2005-09), Sami Lepisto (2007-09)
Former Blue Jackets:  Jason Chimera (2005-09)
The Enemy: Our Bloguin Partner Light the Lamp, The Cannon

The Southeast Division-leading Washington Capitals dropped the first game in their 3-game homestand on Tuesday, damaging their chances to take the top seed in the Eastern Conference.  After facing a bitter division rival fighting to make the playoffs, the Caps now face a Western Conference foe who has been out of the race for some time.  The Capitals are gearing up for the playoffs and need to get their struggling powerplay back on track, but just as importantly, they need to get everyone healthy and playing with intensity. 

The Columbus Blue Jackets may not be in the playoff picture, but don’t let that fool you.  Even though they have won just 3 of 16 games since February 27, the Jackets sit just 3 points behind the Carolina Hurricanes in the league standings.  The Blue Jackets also play in a division with 2 of the last 3 Stanley Cup champions.   The Jackets have been keeping the games close for the most part, taking 5 of those 13 losses to overtime or the shootout before falling.  This is a team that can hurt the Caps if they aren’t taken seriously. 

Injury Report:  Capitals’ D Dennis Wideman (lower body) did not practice on Wednesday and is day-to-day after taking an awkward body check against the Hurricanes.  Defensemen Mike Green (head) and Tom Poti (groin) are on long-term injured reserve. 
-The Blue Jackets expect to be without LW Kristian Huselius (lower body), RW Chris Clark (lower body), and D Anton Stralman (knee).  LW Andrew Murray (lower body), LW Ethan Moreau (foot), and D Grant Clitsome (knee) are day-to-day.

The Columbus Dispatch
Read On To See Us Fire Away!

Three Things To Watch For:

Monster Nash:  Rick Nash is at it again, leading the Blue Jackets in scoring for the fourth straight season.  Nash is in the top-10 in the league in goals with 32, his 6th season surpassing that mark.  He is also a monster against the Capitals, as he has scored 3 goals and 7 points in his last 3 games against the Caps.  With his long reach and hulking frame, Nash is nearly impossible to contain 1-on-1.  To get a sense of Nash’s skill set, when Alex Ovechkin plays video games, he plays as Rick Nash.  Nash’s big issue has been the lack of a playmaker, which means the Caps need to focus on keeping Nash from getting the puck in the first place.


The Alex of Old (No, the other Alex):  Alexander Semin has been his old self in the last two games, factoring in all four of the Caps goals in that span.  In each of his last two games, “Syoma” has scored one goal, one assist, a +2 rating, and a dumb penalty.  With Jason Arnott back centering his line, look for the silky winger to continue his scoring ways.  It doesn’t hurt that Alex potted a goal and 3 points in 2 games against the Jackets last season. 

Mason-Jinxin':  The Capitals have had trouble with Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason for the past couple of years.  Mason stopped all 71 shots in two shutouts in 2008-09, and he only allowed 4 goals in 2 games last season as he went 1-1.  The 2009 Rookie of the Year is returning to his old form, but the team in front of him is falling apart.  Despite the Jackets’ recent struggles, Mason is 2-2-2 in his last 6 games with a 2.41 Goals Against Average and a .917 Save Percentage.  Don’t expect an easy game against this young netminder.