IN GAME UPDATES
SECOND PERIOD ANALYSIS: The Blue Jackets followed up a decent road period with a not-so-good one. Washington leads 2-0 through 40 minutes thanks to goals from Joel Ward (PPG) and Brooks Laich, both the result of some defensive miscues and in the case of Ward's goal, a weak penalty. Columbus can't afford to give the Capitals any additional ammo, and their league-best power play was evidence of that with the game-opening goal by Ward. Laich's goal was a breakdown in front of Bobrovsky, who made the first save by was left hanging on the rebound. The Blue Jackets have to first clean up things in their own end, and then spend some time in the Capitals' zone. It's been a back-and-forth game to this point but Columbus has to start converting on some chances.
FIRST PERIOD ANALYSIS: Pretty good first period from the Blue Jackets, pumping 11 shots at Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby and creating a few quality chances in the process. Washington leads the way in that department after 20 minutes, firing 14 shots at Sergei Bobrovsky, who was solid in the opening period at Verizon Center. The Blue Jackets did a much better job defending in that first period and didn't give the Capitals much room to work with. The pace has been very good and both teams seem willing to play an uptempo game tonight, so it should be a fun game the rest of the way.
MORNING SKATE UPDATES
UPDATE (3:00 PM): Having Marian Gaborik back in the lineup tonight is a big boost for the Blue Jackets, and not just because he's a threat to score goals. Richards praised Gaborik's all-around game and his ability to make a difference at both ends of the ice - and Gaborik has made several nice defensive plays on the backcheck as part of the Jackets' top line. Richards said he's looking forward to having Gaborik operate the half-wall on the Columbus power play, which lacked such a presence on Thursday night in Montreal. Skating with Anisimov tonight - whom he's very familiar with from their time in New York - Gaborik said they don't have to worry about chemistry, just doing the right things and playing a north-south game.
UPDATE (12:15 PM): Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards says he has not yet decided which of the team's defensemen will be scratched tonight in Washington. He did say, however, that neither Ryan Murray or David Savard will come out of the lineup.
UPDATE (11:55 AM): Sergei Bobrovsky gets the start in goal for the Blue Jackets tonight. He'll face Braden Holtby in net for the Captals.
UPDATE (11:30 AM): Courtesy of Katie Carrera of the Washington Post, here are the Capitals' lines and pairs for tonight...
Johansson - Backstrom - Ovechkin
Erat - Laich - Brouwer
Chimera - Grabovski - Ward
Volpatti - Fehr - Wilson
Alzner - Carlson
Schmidt - Green
Urbom - Oleksy
Braden Holtby is expected to start in goal.
UPDATE (11:00 AM): Here are this morning's line combos and pairs...
Atkinson - Anisimov - Gaborik
Jenner- Dubinsky - Letestu
Comeau - Johansen - Umberger
Craig - MacKenzie - Boll
Tyutin - Johnson
Wisniewski - Murray/Prout
UPDATE (10:35 AM): The Blue Jackets have recalled forward Jack Skille from Springfield (AHL), and in a corresponding move, Sean Collins has been re-assigned to the Falcons. Skille is currently on his way to D.C. to join the Blue Jackets. We'll know after the morning skate if he's going to be in the lineup tonight.
GAME DAY EVE: The Blue Jackets are scheduled for an 11:30AM morning skate on Saturday at the Verizon Center. Stay tuned to Game Day Central for the latest on line combinations, who's in/out of the lineup and starting goalies for both sides.
We'll also go inside the dressing room and talk to the Jackets about the match-up against the Capitals, and get Todd Richards' thoughts on the game.
The Blue Jackets arrived in the nation's capital very early Friday morning after a frustrating 5-3 loss in Montreal, and took an optional skate at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in suburban Arlington, Va. later that day. Good news for the Blue Jackets: flu-stricken Marian Gaborik, who missed the game against Montreal, was back on the ice for practice and is expected to return to the lineup on Saturday night against the Capitals.
And while nothing is set in stone, the Blue Jackets could turn to backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney to make his first start of the season on Saturday. Todd Richards said earlier this week that he wants McElhinney to play one of the Jackets' back-to-back games (Saturday or Sunday), and with Sergei Bobrovsky taking 100 percent of the workload to this point, there's a chance McElhinney could spell him in Washington.
For now, the hope is that the Blue Jackets will have Gaborik back in the fold but there has been no update since Tuesday on Nick Foligno, who returned to Columbus for personal reasons.
Both the Capitals and Blue Jackets have struggled out of the gate, with Columbus winning two of its first six games and Washington winning just two of its first seven contests. Capitals coach Adam Oates has maintained that his group will be rewarded for the good things it's doing on the ice, including spending a lot of time in the opposition end of the ice and creating chances at both even strength and on the power play.
The Capitals' power play has been their bread and butter and it was red-hot on opening night in Chicago, but Washington has struggled to consistently find the back of the net ever since that four-goal outburst at United Center.
The New York Rangers, another Metropolitan Division team that has struggled mightily in the early part of 2013-14, came into Verizon Center earlier this week and laid a 2-0 shutout on the Capitals. Henrik Lundqvist was terrific in goal, but the Capitals weren't able to sustain much pressure in the Rangers' zone. Always an opportunistic bunch, the Rangers capitalized on a pair of defensive miscues by Washington and left D.C. with a 2-0 win.
Despite playing solid hockey over their last three games, the Blue Jackets have a 0-3-0 record to show for it. They've out-chanced opponents, rallied from late deficits and gone toe-to-toe with elite teams in the league but it's hard to feel good about effort when it's not producing points. After they face the Capitals on Saturday, the Blue Jackets return home to play eight of their next nine games at Nationwide Arena.
It makes Saturday's game that much more important for Columbus, to return home on a positive note and prepare to make up the ground they lost on the road. The first Metropolitan Division clash between the Blue Jackets and Capitals should be a good one.
LINES AND PAIRS
Tonight's expected lines and pairs for the Blue Jackets...
WHAT'S ON TAP?
VS. VANCOUVER CANUCKS
SUNDAY, 6 P.M.
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