While everyone will have their eyes on the NHL Trade Deadline on Monday, the Washington Capitals will look to finish off a season sweep of the Columbus Blue Jackets a few hours after the 3 PM Eastern deadline. Washington took both games of a home and home series earlier this month with a 3-2 win at Nationwide Arena on February 6 and a 4-2 home win on February 9. The Capitals also beat the Blue Jackets 4-3 on December 2 at Capital One Arena, their first meeting of the season.
The Capitals start a set of back-to-back games on Monday night. They host the Ottawa Senators at Capital One Arena on Tuesday night, their final game before their matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL Stadium Series at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Saturday in Annapolis.
The Capitals will look to build off a dominating 5-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres at Capital One Arena on Saturday. Alex Ovechkin scored his league-leading 37th and 38th goals of the season and matched his 69-point output from last season while getting 70 in the process. He sits four goals shy of his 600th career goal entering Monday night’s tilt. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky each scored dazzling end-to-end goals in the win while Lars Eller also struck for the Capitals. The 5-1 win ended a short two-game slide.
The Capitals will look to carry the momentum and gain consistency against a Blue Jackets team that they have won six straight meetings against and have gone 12-2-3 against in the past four seasons.
General Manager Brian MacLellan said earlier this week that he doesn’t expect any blockbuster moves with the Capitals involved but TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported last night that the Caps “have inquired on some notable veteran D, those with and without term.” So far, MacLellan has added defensemen Michal Kempny from the Chicago Blackhawks and Jakub Jerabek from the Montreal Canadiens. Jerabeck isn’t expected to make his Capitals debut against Columbus.
WSH just added depth rentals on D and have a really tight cap situation; FLA party line is slow and steady (build) wins the race and not of a mind to do anything major. That said, I’ve heard WSH and FLA have inquired on some notable veteran D, those with and without term.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 25, 2018
Braden Holtby will start against the Blue Jackets. Holtby will look to end a career-long winless spell of five games, where he has gone 0-3-2 with an .851 save percentage. On the season, he has a 28-13-4 record with a .909 save percentage and has a goals-against average of 2.95. Maybe seeing the Blue Jackets will help; he is 14-3-2 with a .918 save percentage and a 2.47 goals against average in his career against Columbus.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets currently occupy the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 67 points, which leads the New York Islanders by two points. Columbus has a game in hand on the Islanders.
Columbus won their last game against the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 on Saturday but are only 4-5-1 in their past 10. They have dropped four of their past six in addition to that.
After hosting Washington on Monday, Columbus heads out west for a three-game California road trip, which starts on Thursday in Los Angeles. They visit Anaheim on Friday before closing it out at the Shark Tank in San Jose on Sunday. After that, they begin a four-game homestand. If they have any hope of getting a playoff spot, they must get points on their upcoming stretch.
Columbus has been relatively quiet on the trade market, signing forward Nathan Gerbe as a free agent and picking up ex-Capitals defenseman Taylor Chorney on waivers. But they did add center Mark Letestu from the Nashville Predators in exchange for a 2018 fourth round pick. Nashville acquired Letestu from the Edmonton Oilers earlier in the day for winger Pontus Aberg.
Chorney will make his Columbus debut against his former team on Monday night. Chorney, 30, tallied three goals and 15 points in 97 games wearing a Capitals uniform. He had a +24 rating in his career as a Cap but only played in 24 out of 60 games and four of the team’s last 34 with the Caps this season with rookie defensemen Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos passing him on the depth chart. Waiving Chorney was a corresponding move after acquiring Kempny from the Blackhawks last Monday. Something to watch for as the deadline approaches: defenseman Jack Johnson requested a trade from the Blue Jackets a few weeks ago.
Artemi Panarin leads the Blue Jackets with 50 points and his 17 goals are second on the team but no other Columbus forward has at least 32 points. Panarin, Oliver Bjorkstrand (32), and Pierre-Luc Dubious (31) are the only Blue Jacket forwards to eclipse the 30-point plateau this season. Though, defenseman Seth Jones has eight goals and 37 points in 62 games this season, good for second on the squad. Columbus has been struggling to produce offensively, sitting 27th in the league with 163 goals and 29th in the league with an average of 2.53 goals per game.
Sergei Bobrovsky will start for the Blue Jackets. After winning the Vezina last season, Bobrovsky has a 26-20-5 record this season with a .920 save percentage and a 2.44 goals against average. He has been in net for all of the Jackets’ games against the Capitals this season and has allowed at least three goals in each contest. In his career against Washington, he is 6-10-4 with a save percentage of .897 and a goals-against average of 3.12.
-Alex Ovechkin has tallied 15 goals and 21 points in 29 career games against the Blue Jackets
-Monday’s game against the Blue Jackets is the Capitals’ lone game in a span of 15 games against a Metropolitan Division opponent. The Capitals have gone 11-5-3 against the Metropolitan Division this season. They have not played a game against the Metropolitan Division since February 9 against the Blue Jackets.
-Evgeny Kuznetsov recorded a goal and four points for his 14th multi-point game of the season against the Sabres on Saturday. He leads the Capitals with 42 assists and is second on the team with 59 points. He matched his point output from last season (59 points) against the Sabres.
A Look Back in Time
Three weeks ago, Washington defeated Columbus at Nationwide Arena 3-2. After Columbus defenseman David Savard opened the scoring 1:58 into the game, Capitals defenseman John Carlson scored a power-play goal 2:56 later. Tom Wilson scored in the second period for the Capitals. Columbus tied it up with 6:05 left in the third with a goal from Brandon Dubinsky but Nicklas Backstrom‘s 200th career goal with 43 seconds left would win the game for the Capitals.
By Harrison Brown