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Game #37 Preview: Blue Jackets welcome Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals to Nationwide

Injured Blue Jackets take on the equally hurt Capitals

Washington Capitals v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Washington Capitals
Thursday, January 5, 2023 - 7:00 PM ET
Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
TV: ESPN - Radio: WBNS FM
Opponent’s Blog: Japers’ Rink
Columbus Blue Jackets, 11-23-2, 24 points, 8th Metro, 16th East
@
Washington Capitals, 21-13-6, 48 points, 4th Metro, 7th East

Call me crazy, but I feel a sense of optimism coming into tonights’ game. However, my optimism is based solely on the fact that they can’t possibly play any worse and more than they played on Tuesday night against the Ottawa Senators. The Blue Jackets put forth a lethargic and uninspired performance against the Sens, and I’d have to imagine if there is any pride left in that locker room, they will put forth a better effort tonight. Perhaps even the cannon will make some noise during the game.

Player to Watch

Nick Blankenberg

His energy and attitude are infectious and the team has sorely missed this kid in the lineup. His tenacity draws his teammates into the fight with him, and for a team that quite often lacks any fight (and often energy), just having him suit up can give the team a whole different identity and mindset. It was rumored his return could be today, but nothing is confirmed yet, so this will updated if needed.

Otherwise, the player to watch is anyone who can put the puck in the net and provide some excitement. Just don’t get shutout again.

Jackets Notes

What is left to say about this team? After finally winning a game — albeit against another bad team — the Jackets allowed themselves to get bullied by Ottawa on Tuesday. They took an ungodly amount of penalties that had them chasing the game early on, putting themselves in a hole they were unable to dig out of. Everything looked difficult and still tried to do too much with the puck. If the Blue Jackets want to give themselves any chance of success tonight, they’ll need to play a very simple, hard and straight forward game and skip the extra, no-look passes and try to get more pucks to the net. They have scored just 14 goals in their last 9 games, so they have no right to try and play a cute, overly skilled game.

Carson Meyer will probably draw back into the lineup in search of his first point of the year with Eric Robinson’s status uncertain after taking a big hit into the boards last game. Nick Blankenberg has been teasing Jackets fans with his anticipated return, which will hopefully send Gavin Bayreuther back to the press box where he belongs. Andrew Peeke could also potentially return to the lineup tonight after being healthy scratched the last two games, so either way Bayreuther should be wearing a suit tonight.

Could this be the game Elvis Merzlikins makes his return between the pipes to try and get his season back on track? He’s been a forgotten man with the strong play of Daniil Tarasov and Joonas Korpisalo. Perhaps Elvis needed to fly under the radar for a while to get his head straight. It’ll be trial by fire tonight should he get the nod.

The Jackets will be wearing their third jerseys tonight so the game will be at least a little bit more pleasing to the eyes.

The Other Bench

With some big names on the shelf at the moment (Backstrom, Wilson, Carlson), the Capitals have come on hot lately and have put themselves back into the playoff picture after a slow start to the season that had outsiders speculating on the direction of this aging club. To Alexander Ovechkin, age is merely a number. Ovechkin continues to be one of the best goal scorers in the league at age 37. In his last five games, he has eight goals with three multi-goal games. I’d wager (I really will be putting money on it) that number will continue to grow as the Jackets have rarely proven capable of slowing Ovechkin down. With a two goal game tonight, Ovechkin can reach the 30 goal mark for the 17th time in his career which would give him a share of the all-time lead in this category with Mike Gartner.

Blue Jackets fans were lucky enough to witness Ovechkin’s 750th career goal last season on TV and can potentially witness history in person tonight. It definitely makes the game worth watching.

Our old friend Sonny Milano has seemingly found a home in Washington — at least temporarily. He’s playing well on the second line for Washington and has a stat line of 6-12-18 in 27 games. That would be tied for 4th on the Blue Jackets. In true Jackets’ fashion, I’d look for Milano to have a couple points on the night to really salt the wound.

Season Series

1/5/22 WSH @ CBJ
1/8/22 CBJ @ WSH
1/31/23 WSH @ CBJ
3/21/23 CBJ @ WSH

Stats

Washington Columbus
3.28 (11) GPG 2.61 (30)
2.78 (9) GAPG 3.92 (31)
21.7% (17) PP% 15.3% (31)
80.9% (11) PK% 78.0% (17)
50.70% (16) 5v5 Shot Attempt % 45.52% (29)
50.78% (14) 5v5 Unblocked shot attempt % 45.35% (29)
8.56% (15) 5v5 Shooting % 7.74% (26)
.923 (9) 5v5 Save % .900 (31)
Alex Ovechkin, 28 G Leader Boone Jenner, 11
Evgeny Kuznetsov, 28 A Leader Johnny Gaudreau, 27
Alex Ovechkin, 47 P Leader Johnny Gaudreau, 37
Garnet Hathaway, 41 PIM Leader Mathieu Olivier, 45
9-8-3 Home / Road 9-11-1
7-1-2 Last 10 2-8-0

Projected Lines

Columbus Blue Jackets

Johnny Gaudreau Kent Johnson Patrik Laine
Gustav Nyquist Jack Roslovic Emil Bemstrom
Eric Robinson/Carson Meyer Cole Sillinger Kirill Marchenko
Liam Foudy Sean Kuraly Mathieu Olivier
Vladislav Gavrikov Marcus Bjork
Tim Berni Erik Gudbranson
Adam Boqvist Andrew Peeke
Joonas Korpisalo
Elvis Merzlikins

Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin Dylan Strome Connor Sheary
Sonny Milano Evgeny Kuznetsov Anthony Mantha
Marcus Johansson Lars Eller TJ Oshie
Aliaksei Protas Nic Dowd Garnet Hathaway
Erik Gustafsson Trevor Van Riemsdyk
Dmitry Orlov Nick Jensen
Martin Fehervary Matt Irwin
Darcy Kuemper
Charlie Lindgren