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Blue Jackets-Capitals Preview
WASHINGTON -- The Columbus Blue Jackets visit the Washington Capitals on Friday night to complete a set of back-to-back games and try to make up some ground in the playoff race.
Columbus (27-22-4) has lost four straight (0-3-1) and is on the borderline when it comes to the postseason. They dropped Tuesday night's game 3-2 to Washington in Columbus and now play three of their next four away from home.
"Eventually, we're gonna have to go on a run. It's gonna fall into our hands," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said Thursday. "And I am, I'm looking at the standings now. I have to. There's not a lot of games left, (but) there's still plenty of games to make a move one way or the other.
"Our division has fluctuated. Pittsburgh's taken off here, but other teams lose, win, win a few, lose a few. You pick up the standings today, we're right in the middle of it. So that's what we've got to look to, the next day."
Columbus enters Friday night nine points behind first-place Washington in the Metropolitan Division but only five points behind second-place Pittsburgh.
The Blue Jackets lost a chance to pick up at least a point Tuesday night when Nicklas Backstrom scored his 200th career NHL goal with 42.9 seconds left to give the Capitals (31-17-5) a 3-2 win. Alex Ovechkin had two assists and Braden Holtby stopped 37 shots for Washington.
David Savard and Brandon Dubinsky scored for the Blue Jackets, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 22 saves.
The Capitals have earned a point in 11 of their last 12 games against the Blue Jackets (9-1-2) and in 20 of their last 24 games against Columbus (16-4-4).
That said, Capitals coach Barry Trotz does not take them lightly.
"Columbus has made some great strides the last couple of years," he said. "You saw last year, they were a beast and they still are.
"They lost their home game if you will, so you know that they're going to be really urgent and it's hard in this league to win back-to-backs, but it's not impossible. So our goal is to make sure that we hold home-ice advantage."
Capitals forward Lars Eller compared the back-to-backs with a postseason meeting.
"It's a like a little mini-playoff series almost," he said. "So you get a good really feel for each other and you definitely want to come out of these little mini-series feeling like you got the best of them and came out on top, getting at least three, hopefully four points."
Tortorella said Wednesday that defenseman Zach Werenski will likely have to play through an undisclosed injury for the rest of the season. Werenski, who has 11 goals and 11 assists, has only missed four games but has zero goals and three assists in his past 14 games.
"Obviously, I don't want to go out there and have that in the back of my mind, where maybe I make a mistake or do something to hurt the team," Werenski told The Columbus Dispatch. "So I'm just trying to find ways to fight through it."
Bobrovsky has not fared well versus Washington. He is 6-9-4 with a 3.07 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage against the Capitals.
Holtby, meanwhile, is 13-3-2 with a 2.49 GAA and .916 save percentage versus Columbus.
Backstrom has seven goals and 17 assists in 27 games against Columbus and Ovechkin is 15 and six in 28 games.
Updated February 9, 2018