Capitals can’t take balanced Blue Jackets lightly

January 17

A scene from when the Caps and Blue Jackets met back on Nov. 12. Washington won 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Capitals have been pleased with their play, if not the results, of their last two games against two of the top teams in the NHL. They key now is playing with that same intensity every night, regardless of the opponent, beginning here Friday night.

The Blue Jackets aren’t a team with the sizzle of a matchup against San Jose or Pittsburgh, but they’ve won four straight and eight of their last 11 to work their way up the standings. Columbus sits just four points behind the Capitals with one game in hand on them heading into this tilt. If the Capitals take them lightly or let up simply because Columbus doesn’t have much in the way of star power it will be a mistake they can’t afford.

“They have four balanced lines, they come hard, they’re well-coached, they’ve got some big bodies, [Nathan] Horton adds a dimension. You can’t take them lightly,” Coach Adam Oates said. “They don’t have a [Sidney] Crosby here but they’ve won four in a row, they’re a good hockey team. They’ve got four balanced lines that can score and grind; you can’t take them lightly.”

The Capitals won the first two meetings between the two, capturing a 4-1 win on Oct. 19 and a 4-3 overtime victory on Nov. 12, but Columbus has more confidence and swagger than they did back then.

To have an idea of the Blue Jackets’ balance, consider that they’ve had 14 different goal scorers combine for 36 goals over the past 11 games. They now have Horton, their key free agent pickup this offseason who missed the first three months of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery, in the mix and he’s recorded two goals and two assists in his first six games.

“It can be dangerous, absolutely,” Karl Alzner said. “Guys can take them just a little bit too lightly. You have to remind yourself that regardless who [the opponent] is it needs to be the same way. If we can start good then it will be fresh in everyone’s minds again. That’s probably one of the biggest keys to tonight’s game is starting out the way we have the last few games.”

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