The Blue Jackets found something to jump-start their offense on Saturday when coach Todd Richards re-assembled his top six forwards into some interesting new combinations. Brandon Dubinsky shifted to left wing on a line with Ryan Johansen and Cam Atkinson, and that trio combined for seven points (three goals, four assists) in the Jackets' 5-2 win over the New York Islanders. On the second unit, RJ Umberger played the left side with Artem Anisimov and Marian Gaborik, and that line had some sustained time in the offensive zone, as well.
At this point, it appears likely that the Blue Jackets will use those same combinations when they take on division rival Washington at the Verizon Center on Tuesday night. It's the second meeting of the season between the two clubs, and the Capitals are playing their first game back at home after a lengthy western road trip.
Look for Sergei Bobrovsky to start in goal for Columbus, while the Capitals have a decision to make between Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth.
Now that the Blue Jackets have shed the burden of a five-game losing streak, it's time to string some wins together and continue to climb in the Metropolitan Division.
The good news for Columbus is that, while playing poorly hasn't been part of their plan the past couple of weeks, they're still within reach in the division and no team aside from the Pittsburgh Penguins has really separated itself from the pack.
And with seven of their next eight games on the road (which follows a stretch of eight of nine at home), the Blue Jackets want to start this next segment of their schedule on a positive note, and perhaps, exact a little revenge on the Capitals, who handed them a rather one-sided defeat back on Oct. 19 at the Verizon Center.
It won't be easy, though - the Capitals have won four straight on home ice and play some of their best hockey in their own rink, where they really push the pace and play an uptempo style that some opponents can't handle.
Washington is coming off a tough two-game road trip out west that didn't treat them very well; the Capitals held a 3-1 lead in the final minutes of regulation on Saturday night in Phoenix, but the Coyotes scored twice to tie it and went on to win the game in a shootout. The following night, the Capitals were out-worked and out-skated by the red-hot Avalanche, who led throughout and never let the Capitals within striking distance after the first half of the game.
To keep pace in this one, the Blue Jackets are going to need the same level of compete on the offensive side of the puck that they got on Saturday night. Richards was fairly critical of his team after Monday's practice, as he was asked whether their net presence was consistent enough to score more goals. He said he liked their traffic around the net, but as a whole, said the Blue Jackets don't shoot the puck well enough or efficiently enough to produce better offensive numbers. Whether shots are getting blocked at the net, in the slot or wherever, the Blue Jackets aren't getting enough pucks through to the net and it's hurting them in the scoring department.
In a nutshell, Richards wants the Blue Jackets to play much simpler with the puck in the scoring areas. A good reference point was RJ Umberger's power play goal early in the third period on Saturday; James Wisniewski was first to a loose puck on the right wall, and sent a quick wrist shot to the net which Umberger deflected past Evgeni Nabokov.
Sometimes, the old K.I.S.S. approach is the best approach, and it gave the Blue Jackets some success in their most recent victory.
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