CAPS GAME NIGHT--GAME 42: Columbus Comes Calling

Posted by Dave Nichols | Friday, January 09, 2009 | , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (27-11-3-57, first in Southeast, second in East), winners of their last seven games, host the Columbus Blue Jackets (18-18-4-40, third in Central) at 7:00 pm at the Verizon Center.

The Caps continue to be one of the hottest teams in the league. They are 14-2-0 since Dec. 4 and 18-1-1 at home this season. Washington looks to even the season series against Columbus, as they fell on the road to the Jackets 3-0 on Nov. 29.

In the previous loss, Rick Nash was the difference-maker for Columbus as he scored two of the three goals. Nash will miss tonight's game, however. Rookie goalie Steve Mason earned one of his five shut outs for the season that night, stopping all 26 shots he faced.

In fact, Mason has been the reason Columbus can still think about the playoffs. The 20-year old netminder is 7-5-0 with a 1.49 goals-against average the past month. Overall this season, his goals against is 1.82 and save percentage is .934, both tops in the NHL. Inexplicably, he was left off the Western Conference All-Star team.

Just as disappointing were the omissions of Niklas Backstrom and Mike Green from the Eastern Conference reserves. It is unfortunate the league could not find room for the seventh leading scorer in the East overall (Backstrom) and the number three scoring defenseman (Green), but that is what happens when the league allows unlimited computer voting and the "fans" vote two undeserving players to the starting lineups (Montreal's Alex Kovalev and Mike Komisarek).

Coach Bruce Boudreau's team must focus their efforts on a stingy Columbus team after their tense victory over Philadelphia Tuesday night, a 2-1 shootout win. His team is getting healthy at the right time though, with games against Montreal, Pittsburgh and Boston in the coming week.

Center Sergei Federov and winger Tomas Fleischmann both appear ready to make their returns to the ice, opening up all sorts of questions about line assignments, healthy scratches and cap issues. For Boudreau, having these types of questions is a luxury compared to earlier in the season when they had trouble finding enough healthy bodies to suit up (see: video producer Brett Leonhardt in goal).

Defenseman Tyler Sloan was recalled this morning from AHL Hershey, apparently due to an undisclosed injury to defenseman Jeff Schultz.

WAS: PP-5th (23.2%, 39/168); PK-20th (80.3%, 37/188)
CLB: PP-30th (10.2%, 18/177); PK-18th (80.7%, 35/181)

WAS: D John Erskine (Concussion-IR); D Brian Pothier (Concussion-OUT); D Tom Poti (Groin-IR); C Sergei Federov (Ankle-Questionable); Tomas Fleischmann (Pneumonia-Questionable); D Jeff Schultz (Undisclosed-Questionable)

CLB: C Derick Brassard (Shoulder-Out); LW Raffi Torres (Knee-IR); LW Jason Chimera (Groin-IR); LW Kristian Huselius (Upper body-Questionable); D Rostislav Klesla (Lower body-IR); G Pascal Leclaire (Lower body-IR); LW Rick Nash (Leg-Doubtful); C Jiri Novotny (Upper body-IR)