Game Preview: Blue Jackets Visit The District For Saturday Night Tilt

Nova Caps Fans

The Washington Capitals will look to get back into the win column when they face off against the Columbus Blue Jackets. This is the Caps’ fourth game of their season-longest five-game homestand. 

Here are the projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin – Dylan Strome – Tom Wilson
Sonny Milano – Evgeny Kuznetsov – T.J. Oshie
Anthony Mantha – Connor McMichael – Matthew Phillips
Beck Malenstyn – Hendrix Lapierre – Aliaksei Protas

 Martin Fehervary – John Carlson
Rasmus Sandin – Trevor van Riemsdyk
Alex Alexeyev – Nick Jensen
Hardy Häman Aktell – Lucas Johansen

Charlie Lindgren
Darcy Kuemper

The Capitals (4-4-1) were blanked 3-0 by the New York Islanders. It was the second time this season that the Caps were held off the scoresheet. 

However, despite not tallying a goal, Washington played a solid 40 minutes. It had the puck for sustained periods of time and generated good chances. But the Caps once again could not capitalize on the chances they had and struggled to get to the rebounds. 

The Caps were strong on the forecheck and caused a lot of turnovers, which is how they got their chances against the Islanders. Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery said that while the pressure and the clean breakouts were a positive, the next step is to start executing on passes and quickly move the puck whenever they do force a giveaway. 

“There’s two areas for me that when you look at, we’re not doing a good enough job offensively once we create that turnover [by] attacking and finishing. When I say finishing, I don’t mean shooting the puck past the goalie, I mean making two passes and stringing them together on the tape,” Carbery said. “When we have opportunities to attack, it should be bang-bang-bang, and for whatever reason it just looks a little sloppy, rolling pucks not in guy’s wheelhouses, having to double clutch off a guy’s skates.”

The top six was very ineffective against New York. Carbery mentioned after the loss that the bottom six outplayed the top two lines. The first line, which was dominant during the Caps’ three-game win streak, struggled on the defensive side of the ice.

Alex Ovechkin, Dylan Strome and Tom Wilson each had a plus/minus rating of -3. The trio had some good looks but could not beat Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov. 

“Whenever you score, the confidence goes up. A lot of guys feel a little snake bitten and that doesn’t help either. And we’re not creating those extreme high percentage plays and shots and chances,” John Carlson said. “We’re not creating those extreme high percentage plays and shots and chances but with that said, I think we’re doing a fantastic job getting good chances, and a lot of them. Guys are working.”

Connor McMichael played center for the first time following the absence of Nicklas Backstrom. He will once again center the third line with Anthony Mantha and Matthew Phillips. McMichael was 22.2% at the faceoff dot against the Isles, but was very noticeable on the forecheck.

“As a centerman you kind of have to command the line and before faceoffs make sure everything is set up. You kind of have to use your voice a lot more out there,” McMichael said. “You’re just all over the puck all the time. I found that at wing you’re kind of making reads of the play, whereas center you’re going everywhere. I like the responsibility and I like that Carbs can trust me with that.”

Charlie Lindgren will get his second start of the season after Darcy Kuemper allowed three goals on six shots against the Islanders. Lindgren started the first game of the regular season against the Pittsburgh Penguins, where the Capitals fell 4-0. He had not suited up in the last few contests due to a lower-body injury.

Scouting Columbus

The Blue Jackets (4-4-2) are coming off a 4-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Prior to Thursday’s win, Columbus had lost four straight games. 

Defenseman Ivan Provorov leads the Jackets with eight points. He has yet to score a goal. Captain Boone Jenner is the team leader with five goals.

Columbus recalled forward Yegor Chinakov from the Cleveland Monsters, the Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate, and sent down Kent Johnson. Chinakov is coming from a back strain that kept him out for the majority of last season. He had 13 points (four goals, nine assists) through 30 games. 

The Jackets have the ninth best penalty kill in the NHL coming in at 85.3%. 

Player To Watch

Rookie forward Adam Fantilli has six points (two goals, four assists) through the first 10 games of his NHL career. The 2023 Hobey Baker winner had the secondary assist on Erik Gudbrandson’s game-winning tally against the Lightning. 

Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m. at Capital One Arena. The game can be streamed on Monumental Sports Network. 

By Jacob Cheris

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