Pregame primer: Grubauer to face Blue Jackets

Pregame primer: Grubauer to face Blue Jackets
January 17, 2014, 3:00 pm
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Jan 14, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau (12) scores on Washington Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer (31) during a shootout at Verizon Center. The Sharks won 2-1 in a shootout.

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

News and notes as the Capitals [22-17-8, 52 points] visit the Columbus Blue Jackets [22-20-4, 48 points] tonight at Nationwide Arena [7 p.m., CSN]”

Starting goalies: Philipp Grubauer [6-2-5, 2.06, .936] is scheduled to make his 13th start in 19 games for the Caps. He’ll face  Sergei Bobrovsky [13-11-2, 2.58, .915], who has won five straight starts and is 9-3-2 in his last 14 decisions.

It’s his turn: Left wing Marty Erat is expected to return to the lineup after sitting out the previous five games as a healthy scratch. He’s likely to replace left wing Aaron Volpatti on a fourth line with Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson. Erat has four assists in two games against Columbus this season. He's one point shy of 500 in the NHL.

On the brink: The Caps have lost three in a row and have fallen to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference standing with 52 points, one behind the Flyers, Rangers and Maple Leafs. All three of those teams are idle tonight, which means a win would vault the Caps back into second place in the Metropolitan Division. The Caps have one game in hand on the Flyers and two in hand on the Rangers and Leafs. If the playoffs began today, the eighth-seeded Caps would face the top-seeded Penguins in Round 1. Now wouldn’t that be fun?

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Trending: The Caps have lost nine of their last 12 games, but have gained at least a point in eight of them [3-4-5]. The have lost five straight decisions that have been decided in overtime or shootout. Including tonight, seven of the Caps’ next eight games are on the road. The Caps have won five straight over Columbus. The Blue Jackets have won four games in a row, including a shutout over Carolina.

Division foes: This is the 17th all-time meeting between the Capitals and Blue Jackets and the third since becoming Metropolitan Division rivals. The Capitals are 2-0-0 against Columbus this season and 9-6-2 against the Metro Division. The Caps are 11-3-1-1 all-time against Columbus. the highest winning percentage Washington has against any franchise in the NHL.

Ovi by the numbers: Alex Ovechkin has 8 goals in 10 career games against the Blue Jackets. Overall, Ovechkin has seven points in his last seven games Dating back to last season, Ovechkin has scored 57 goals in his last 68 regular-season games. He ranks first in the NHL in goals [34], power-play goals [12] and shots [247] and is tied for second in power-play points [23].

Remember me? Caps left wing Jason Chimera was acquired by the Capitals from the Blue Jackets in exchange for Chris Clark and Milan Jurcina on Dec. 28, 2009. Chimera played in parts of five seasons for the Blue Jackets, registering 136 points [62 goals, 74 assists] in 331 games.

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Hurting: The Blue Jackets will be without right wings Marian Gaborik [collar bone], Jared Boll [ankle] and Jack Skille [upper body] and left wing Blake Comeau [knee]. Offensively, they are led by Ryan Johansen [17 goals, 17 assists], Brandon Dubinsky [9-20-29], Nick Foligno [12-14-26] and James Wisniewski [3-23-26].

Statistically speaking: The Caps are 13-0-2 when leading after two periods. The Caps are outscoring their opponents 58-49 in second periods this season, but are getting outscored 44-38 in the third.

Isn’t that special: The Caps are tied for first in the NHL on the power play [24.7 percent] and 17th on the penalty kill [80.2]. The Blue Jackets are 20th on the PP [17.8] and 23rd on the PK [79.5]

Shootout switch: The Caps have lost three straight shootouts going with Eric Fehr, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Their best shootout players this season have been Brooks Laich [2-for-2], Fehr [5-for-8], Backstrom [6-for-12] and Mikhail Grabovski [5-for-10]. Their worst has been Ovechkin [2-for-13].

Milestone: Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards will be coaching in his 300th NHL game tonight. He’ll be an assistant coach for Team USA at the Sochi Olympics.

Look ahead: The Caps will practice in Columbus on Saturday, then head to New York to face the Rangers on Sunday at 7:30 p.m.