The Washington Capitals ran away from the pack in the Metropolitan the past two seasons, but the reigning two-time Presidents’ Trophy winners are stuck in the middle as they continue a five-game homestand. Sitting above Washington are the division-leading Columbus Blue Jackets, who pay a visit to the Capitals on Saturday night.
The Blue Jackets arrive in the nation’s capital on a roll, improving to 8-1-0 in their last nine games following Friday’s 4-2 home win over Anaheim. Columbus’ “French Bread” of Artemi Panarin, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Josh Anderson continues to toast opponents, combining for eight points against the Ducks. Washington had its three-game winning streak halted in Thursday’s 5-2 loss to visiting Los Angeles, which scored twice in a span of nine seconds. The Capitals won the final three of the five matchups between the teams last season and has won eight of the last 10 against the Blue Jackets at home.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Ohio (Columbus), NBCSN Washington
ABOUT THE BLUE JACKETS (17-8-1): Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky will be back in net after being held out for the past two games — the first time he’s sat out consecutive games when healthy since April 2016. Coach John Tortorella said the move was by design to allow Bobrovsky, who has not yielded more than two goals in eight straight starts, to work on the “technical part” of his craft. Panarin and Anderson each had a goal and two assists Friday, with Anderson stretching his point streak to five games.
ABOUT THE CAPITALS (14-11-1): One player who should be happy to welcome the Blue Jackets is playmaking center Nicklas Backstrom, who is mired in a 19-game goal-scoring drought — the second-longest of his career behind a 23-game run to close out the 2014-15 season. Backstrom has 21 points in 25 career games against the Blue Jackets, including five goals and 11 points in nine games over the past two seasons. Since he was reunited with Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin had five goals in three games before he was blanked Thursday.
1. Capitals G Braden Holtby is 11-3-2 with a 2.49 goals-against average versus Columbus.
2. Blue Jackets D Ryan Murray (upper-body) is expected to sit out his third straight game.
3. F Nathan Walker, waived by Washington on Thursday, was claimed by Edmonton one day later.
PREDICTION: Capitals 3, Blue Jackets 2