The Washington Capitals are hitting the road for a quick back-to-back before a Sunday tilt back on home ice, and they’ll kick things off with a St. Patrick’s Day tilt against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Washington is 5-0-1 in its last six games and appears to be sticking with what worked as the team takes on Columbus, who has been impressive of late and has won three straight games. The Blue Jackets sit 11 points behind the Capitals, who are comfortably in the second Wild Card spot and three points behind the Boston Bruins for WC1.
Per Mike Vogel, Vitek Vanecek will make his third straight start in goal. He has won his last five starts and has been stellar of late as he takes control of the Capitals’ crease. Since Jan. 15, Vanecek has boasted a .931 save percentage (sixth among NHL goalies with at least 10GP since) and a 2.03 GAA. At 5-on-5, his .936 save percentage ranks third among netminders with at least 15 full games played. Joonas Korpisalo will get the nod for CBJ, per THW’s Mark Scheig.
Meanwhile, when it comes to the lines, it looks like there won’t be any changes from Tuesday’s tilt against the New York Islanders. Daniel Sprong, who is celebrating his 25th birthday, will stay in the lineup and work on that third line with Connor McMichael and Tom Wilson. McMichael is filling in for Lars Eller, who remains on COVID-19 protocol and is still quarantining in Vancouver. Mike Vecchione, who was called up to give Washington a 13th forward option as the team played three games in four nights, will be a healthy scratch again, along with Michal Kempny and Matt Irwin.
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Here are what Tuesday’s lines looked like. These will likely be the same combinations the team will play against CBJ:
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Conor Sheary
Anthony Mantha-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie
Daniel Sprong-Connor McMichael-Tom Wilson
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby-Nic Dowd-Garnet Hathaway
Martin Fehervary-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Nick Jensen
Trevor van Riemsdyk-Justin Schultz
Keep an eye on Alex Ovechkin, who recorded career goal No. 767 and took sole possession of third on the NHL’s all-time goals list on Tuesday. He has points in back-to-back games, and in three games against Columbus this season, he has two goals and two assists. One of those strikes moved him past Brett Hull for the fourth-most goals in NHL history, and the other was his 750th career goal.
Also watch out for Evgeny Kuznetsov, who has points in six straight, and Anthony Mantha, who has four points in six games since returning to the lineup from a long-term shoulder injury.
For the Jackets, names to watch include Patrik Laine (four points in his last five games) and Olivier Bjorkstrand (six points in his last five games). Both are tied for the team lead in scoring with 45 points each this season. Also be on the lookout for Max Domi; per reports, he may be on the Capitals’ radar with the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline approaching.