Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night for the third meeting between the two teams this season and in the past 18 days. The Blue Jackets won both of the first two games of the season series so far, beating the Capitals 5-2 in Washington on December 9 before shutting them out 3-0 at Nationwide Arena a week later. Both teams return from the NHL’s holiday break. Action from Capital One Arena can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 7 PM ET.
The Blue Jackets got off to a slow start following the departure of their two best players, forward Artemi Panarin and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, in free agency but they began to put it together before the holiday break. Their 5-2 win in Washington a couple weeks ago sparked an eight-game point streak, where they have gone 6-0-2 over that span, while their 3-0 victory against the Capitals last week started a five-game winning streak, which has propelled them six points within a Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Blue Jackets wrap up a stretch of two consecutive road games and a span where they played seven out of 10 games on the road. Since winning at Capital One Arena on December 9, they are 3-0-2 on the road, including two straight victories. Prior to that, they had not won away from Nationwide Arena since November 7. The Blue Jackets are 6-6-5 on the road this season. Before the holiday break, they downed the New York Islanders by a score of 3-2 at Nassau Coliseum.
The Blue Jackets are a stingy defensive team as their average of 2.84 goals-against per game is currently 10th in the league. Unfortunately for them, their offense does not provide adequate run support as their average of 2.65 goals-per-game is the eighth-fewest. However, that is mainly due to horrible puck luck. The Blue Jackets’ average of 33.4 shots-per-game is tied for the fifth-most in the NHL while their average of 29.2 shots-against per game is the sixth-fewest.
Center Pierre-Luc Dubois, who enters Friday’s game on a four-game point streak where he has tallied two goals and six points, and forward Gustav Nyquist, who signed a four-year deal with the Blue Jackets in free agency, share the team lead with 26 points in 37 games this season. Before getting held off of the scoresheet during Monday’s 3-2 win in New York, Nyquist recorded two goals and seven points on a five-game point streak. Dubois’ 12 goals are currently tied with forward Oliver Bjorkstrand, who has scored three goals in two games against the Capitals this season and is riding a four-game point streak where he has posted five goals and seven points, for the Blue Jackets’ lead. The team announced on Thursday that forward Cam Atkinson, who has recorded nine goals and 21 points in 35 games this season, will miss 2-3 weeks with an ankle sprain and they have recalled forward Jakob Lilja, center Ryan McInnis, defenseman Gabriel Carlsson, and defenseman Adam Clendening on emergency recall from the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters.
So out for Blue Jackets tonight:
Milano (upper body)
Murray (lower body)
Nutivaara (upper body)
— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) December 27, 2019
Goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, who is 17-10-3 with a .911 save percentage, a 2.54 goals-against average, and two shutouts this season, is expected to get the start in Washington on Friday. Since making 37 saves in the Blue Jackets’ 5-2 win at Capital One Arena earlier this month, the 25-year old has gone 6-0-2 with a .936 save percentage in his past eight appearances. In four career games against the Capitals, Korpisalo has gone 3-0-0 with a .966 save percentage, a 1.07 goals-against average, and one shutout. He also made 30 saves in the Blue Jackets’ shutout over the Capitals on December 16.
The Capitals ended a stretch where they play eight of 11 games away from Capital One Arena on Monday night when they fell 7-3 to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden and are now at home for seven of their next 11 games before their bye week during the fourth week of January. The Capitals have won both of their home games since their 5-2 loss to the Blue Jackets at Capital One Arena and are 5-1-1 in their past seven home games. They are 10-3-4 at Capital One Arena this season.
Despite a lethargic opening period on Monday which led to the 7-3 loss in Boston, the Capitals entered the holiday break eight points clear of the Islanders for first place in the Metropolitan Division and four of the Bruins for first in the Eastern Conference. Since they dropped four of seven games (3-2-2) in mid-November, the Capitals are 9-3-0 in their past 12 games. Though two of those losses came against the Blue Jackets. They have scored at least three goals and allowed two at most in every one of their wins over that stretch.
Defenseman John Carlson‘s 35 assists are currently tied with Bruins forward Brad Marchand for third in the NHL behind only Edmonton Oilers centers Connor McDavid (41) and Leon Draisaitl (39) while his 48 assists are tied with Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau for seventh in the NHL. Though, the 29-year old has been held off of the scoresheet three times in the past five games, where he’s posted only a goal and three points. Carlson has no points and a -2 rating against the Blue Jackets this season. His +19 rating is the sixth-best in the NHL this season. Captain Alex Ovechkin’s 24 goals are currently third in the NHL. He has posted two goals and three points over his last three games but only three goals and five points this month.
The Capitals’ average of 3.53 goals-per-game is second in the NHL this season only behind the Colorado Avalanche (3.62) while their average of 2.87 goals-against per game is 12th. Their 84.8% penalty-killing efficiency is tied with the Calgary Flames for second in the NHL behind only the San Jose Sharks (88%) but went four-for-six against the Bruins, a game after it went seven-for-seven against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Capitals’ power-play has gone 0-for-15 in the past five games and is tied with the Arizona Coyotes for 12th in the NHL with a 20.8% efficiency.
Goaltender Ilya Samsonov, who is 9-2-1 with a .914 save percentage and a 2.39 goals-against average in his rookie season, could make his first career start against the Blue Jackets on Friday night after Braden Holtby gave up seven goals on 58 shots (.879 save percentage) in his first two starts against them this season and with the Capitals starting a set of back-to-backs. He made three saves on four shots in relief during the team’s 7-3 loss in Boston on Monday.
- Ovechkin enters Friday one power-play goal shy of passing Teemu Selanne (255) for the third-most power-play goals in NHL history
- The Capitals have secured the highest regular-season point total of any team this decade (1,018 points with three games to play) and guarantee at least a tie for the highest win total (Capitals: 464, Pittsburgh Penguins: 461) — the Capitals and Penguins each have three games remaining in 2019
- Among line combinations in the NHL with at least 120 minutes played together, the Capitals’ fourth forward line of Brendan Leipsic, Nic Dowd, and Garnet Hathaway line is tied for the fourth-highest shot attempt percentage in the NHL, trailing only the Vancouver Canucks’ line of Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller, and Brock Boeser by 0.1% for third
- The Capitals are 4-1-1 in the first games of a back-to-back set this season, 5-0-1 in the second half of back-to-backs, 3-0-1 following a win in the first half and 2-0-0 following a regulation or overtime loss
- Only five defensemen, including Carlson, have recorded at least 48 points in their team’s first 38 games since 1979-80 (Coffey: six times; MacInnis: 1991; Leetch: 1992; Phil Housley: 1992); Carlson has 15 multi-point games this season, which leads the Capitals, is the most among defensemen, and tied for the sixth-most in the NHL while his six game-winners are tied with Draisaitl and Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak for the most
- The Capitals are the only team in the NHL that haven’t lost two consecutive games in regulation
- Over the last three games, Capitals defensemen have combined for 13 points (four goals)
- The Capitals are 16-1-3 this season when they score the game’s first goal
By Harrison Brown