COLUMBUS, Ohio – After a day off, the Capitals were back on the ice Friday morning to prepare for an important Metropolitan Division matchup against the Blue Jackets, who sit only four points behind them in the standings.
The challenge for the Capitals continues to be one of staying focused and committed to their system as their play gradually improves but results don’t follow. Washington has lost 10 of its past 14 games, including back-to-back defeats against the Sharks and Penguins, which despite the losses were two of the team’s better all-around performances of the year.
Coach Adam Oates knows that the message of focusing on all that they’ve done well can grow stale in the midst of a three-game losing streak, but the players so far have been able to take comfort in their overall play.
“We all understand that the last few games we’ve played some pretty good hockey and haven’t won. We know that and we all recognize that playing that way is more fun and gives us clearly a better opportunity to be successful,” Karl Alzner said. “If you don’t feel confident in the way you’re playing then yeah, it’s challenging. We’ve all seen it; the last two games, those are teams that are extremely hard to play against and I thought we played them pretty tough.”
It was an upbeat morning skate here at Nationwide Arena, which isn’t exactly what one expects from a team that slid down the standings to fourth place the night before, but it’s evidence the Capitals remain confident in the way they’re playing.
“It’s not a result of how we’re playing right now, the outcomes of the games. There’s moments in the games we’re making mistakes and it’s costing us as a result of it but for the most part we’re playing good hockey right now…..We’re just trying to stay positive in here but when you’re not getting points and moving up the standings it’s tough,” Troy Brouwer said. “Guys are doing a good job of trying to keep the morale up and making sure that we’re not getting down on each other not getting down on the systems and the way we’re playing.”
>> Philipp Grubauer will make his 13th start in 19 games Friday night as he takes on the Blue Jackets. He’ll be opposed by reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky.
“Because he’s been steady, he’s going,” Oates said. “We still have confidence in all our goalies but he’s obviously been the hot guy so we’re going with him.”
>> Martin Erat has sat out as healthy scratch the past five games but he’ll be back in the lineup against the Blue Jackets and Aaron Volpatti will take his place on the scratches list. The veteran forward has 16 goals and 57 points in 59 career games against Columbus.
“He had a time to sit and I’m looking for him to inject a spark,” Oates said. “He’s got good offensive skills and we need him to play, hopefully he plays good.”
>> The Blue Jackets likely will be without top pairing defenseman Fedor Tyutin, who is ill, against the Capitals. If he doesn’t play, Dalton Prout will take his place in the lineup.
“He was feeling better last night and then woke up this morning and wasn’t feeling better,” Blue Jackets Coach Todd Richards said. “So we’ll take a look at him this afternoon and make a call then. But I think it’s not looking good that he’s going to play.”
>> Projected lineups for both teams
Nick Foligno-Ryan Johansen-R.J. Umberger
Matt Calvert-Brandon Dubinsky-Cam Atkinson
Boone Jenner-Artem Anisimov-Nathan Horton
Derek MacKenzie-Mark Letestu-Corey Tropp
Fedor Tyutin/Dalton Prout-Jack Johnson
Ryan Murray-James Wisniewski
Nikita Nikitin-David Savard