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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, January 30th (All times Eastern)
Washington Capitals (24-21-8) at Columbus Blue Jackets (26-23-4), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - Earlier this month, the Columbus Blue Jackets slammed the visiting Washington Capitals as part of a franchise-record eight-game winning streak.
On Thursday, however, the Blue Jackets will try to halt a three-game slide as the Capitals return to Columbus looking for a bit of revenge.
Columbus routed the Caps by a 5-1 score on Jan. 17, marking the fifth of eight straight wins for the Blue Jackets. Cam Atkinson scored twice for Columbus, while Sergei Bobrovsky anchored the win by stopping 26-of-27 shots. The win halted Columbus' five-game losing streak in the series and it was just the third loss for Washington in nine all-time trips to Nationwide Arena.
Tonight's tilt is also an important battle in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Jackets and Capitals both currently have 56 points, leaving them one point behind Carolina and Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. Both the Hurricanes and Red Wings are idle on Thursday.
The Caps lost seven straight from Jan. 12-24, a stretch that included the loss in Columbus, but Washington enters Thursday's tilt on a two-game win streak.
Washington has scored five goals in each of its two recent victories, recording a 5-0 win in Montreal on Saturday before edging Buffalo, 5-4, in overtime on Tuesday. The close win over the Sabres pushed the Caps to 2-1-0 on a five-game road trip, but Washington is still only 10-12-4 as the guest this season.
Mike Green scored the winner one minute into overtime to lift the Capitals past the Sabres on Tuesday. Martin Erat skated down the left wing and left a drop pass for Alex Ovechkin, who faked a shot before firing a perfect pass to the right side where Green had an easy slam for the win.
Ovechkin finished the game with two goals and two assists, Green had two goals and an assist, while Troy Brouwer added a goal and an assist for the Capitals. Braden Holtby stopped 23 shots to pick up the win.
Washington earned the victory despite blowing an early 2-0 lead and allowing Buffalo's Cody Hodgson to tie the score at 4-4 with 6:48 left in the third period.
"The good news is we won the game and did a lot of good things," said Washington head coach Adam Oates. "A couple of mistakes and breakdowns. I don't want to see it's all our fault because they made some good plays, but some things we need to straighten out."
Holtby expects to get the call in Thursday's tilt. He replaced an ineffective Philipp Grubauer in the loss earlier this month at Columbus and stopped 20- of-22 shots in his relief role. Holtby is 2-0-0 with a 2.26 goals against average in three career games (2 starts) against the Blue Jackets.
Washington forward Mikhail Grabovski did not make the trip to Columbus and will miss a straight game due to an injured left ankle. Grabovski is tied for third on the Capitals this season with 33 points on 12 goals and 21 assists.
The Blue Jackets lost their third straight game in regulation on Tuesday, dropping a 3-2 decision against the visiting Ottawa Senators. Jason Spezza scored the game-winner with just under five minutes to play, propelling the Senators to the close victory at Nationwide Arena.
James Wisniewski's power-play goal 7:16 into the third period tied the game at 2-2, but Columbus forward Nathan Horton went off for tripping at 13:08 and Spezza pounded a loose puck into the back of the net amid a scrum in front for the deciding goal with just six seconds left on the Horton minor.
Wisniewski and Atkinson each notched a goal and an assist for the Blue Jackets. Curtis McElhinney made 25 saves in defeat.
"Tonight we weren't ready to start the game," Columbus center Brandon Dubinsky admitted. "The first period was awful. They beat us to all the pucks, won all the races."
Bobrovsky expects to start on Thursday. He is 2-1-2 with a 3.14 GAA in six career outings against the Capitals.
Columbus has lost two straight on home ice after taking its previous five games as the host. The Blue Jackets are 14-11-2 at Nationwide Arena and will complete a three-game stay at the building in Saturday's meeting with Florida.
01/30 10:48:33 ET