Preview: Blue Jackets at Capitals
After extending a pair of impressive winning streaks, the reigning Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals will resume their rivalry against the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night. The Capitals have won three in a row after beating Boston for the 14th consecutive time on Thursday night for their 10th straight Eastern Conference road win.
Even though he leads the league in goals, Washington captain Alex Ovechkin had been in a slump with one tally in 10 games before scoring twice against the Bruins to give him 32 on the season. The Capitals beat the Blue Jackets in a six-game series in the opening round of the playoffs last April, but they split the first two matchups this season with each winning on the road. Columbus has alternated wins and losses in seven games since returning from the Christmas break, making John Tortorella the first American-born coach to reach 600 victories after edging Nashville 4-3 in overtime Thursday. "It's a number," Tortorella said. "But I'm honored and privileged to have the opportunity to be in the game as long as I have. That's what that number is."
TV: 7 p.m. ET; ESPN Plus, FS Ohio (Columbus), NBCS Washington
ABOUT THE BLUE JACKETS (25-15-3): Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky missed Thursday's game due to disciplinary action imposed by the team, but he was back at practice Friday and ready to move forward. "I always pride myself on being a good teammate all the time wherever I play, whomever I play, and I addressed that to the team," the two-time Vezina Trophy recipient said. "It is what it is, it happened. We cleared the air and we're ready to move on." Boone Jenner scored twice Thursday to snap a 14-game goal drought.
ABOUT THE CAPITALS (27-12-4): Jakub Vrana followed up his two-goal effort at Philadelphia on Tuesday by scoring against Boston to hike his season total to 15 -- two more than his previous high from last season in 73 games. "He's playing some excellent hockey," coach Todd Reirden said of the 2014 first-round draft pick. "He has been strong all year for us. I guess the consistency for him is a major difference for me in terms of how we evaluate his game." Center Nicklas Backstrom returned from a one-game absence to deliver the game-winning goal against Boston, his first tally following a 15-game dry spell.
1. Blue Jackets F Artemi Panarin has six goals in nine games after scoring twice on the power play Thursday.
2. Ovechkin has 17 goals in 32 games against Columbus.
3. Bobrovsky is 8-11-4 with a 3.02 goals-against average versus Washington.
PREDICTION: Capitals 3, Blue Jackets 2