Well-rested Blue Jackets eye fourth straight victory

NHL Hockey

The rested Columbus Blue Jackets will go for their fourth straight win when they host the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

The Blue Jackets have not played since defeating the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 on Saturday.

The original schedule called for the Blue Jackets to play their past two games — both against the Avalanche — in Helsinki, Finland. Those games were moved back to the U.S. because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These days will be used properly,” coach Brad Larsen said during the week. “We’re not taking a breath and sitting back, I can tell you that.”

Now the Blue Jackets have back-to-back games against the Capitals and New York Rangers as they look to build on their 7-3-0 start.

Columbus will be hoping the break doesn’t cool off winger Oliver Bjorkstrand. The 26-year-old, who led the Blue Jackets with 44 points (18 goals, 26 assists) in 56 games last season, has five goals and eight assists through 10 games, more than anyone in franchise history except Rick Nash and Artemi Panarin.

“Obviously in a positive way he surprised me how good of a player he is, and hopefully he can just get better and better,” said Patrik Laine, who joined Columbus last season. “It’s not all about just his goals and assists. I think he’s overall a really good player and still youngish, so he’s learning, but he’s on a good path.”

Boone Jenner has totaled three points over his last three games and leads Columbus with six goals.

The Blue Jackets’ 10-game start is tied for the best in their history (2017-18).

The banged-up Capitals, who will be looking for their third straight win, are playing the second of a back-to-back. With four forwards on the injured list, Washington was also without goalie Vitek Vanecek on Thursday night.

Zach Fucale, 26, made 21 saves in his NHL debut, and the visiting Capitals defeated the Detroit Red Wings 2-0. Fucale, called up from Hershey of the American Hockey League, became the first Capitals goalie to earn a shutout in his debut.

“The first eight minutes, we were just a little slow out of the gate,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “And he was good, he was sharp. And then even through the course of the rest of the game, there was a couple of big saves that he had to make in there.”

All Washington’s offense came when Dmitry Orlov and Lars Eller scored in a 10-second span midway through the first period.

Alex Ovechkin had an assist but didn’t register on shot on net and remains tied with Brett Hull for fourth in NHL history in goals (741).

At least for now, the Capitals have four rookies mixed in among their 12 forwards, though Laviolette spread them out over three lines.

“I want to make sure that we’ve got a veteran presence and we’re covered on all of our lines,” Laviolette said. “While the kids are playing well, I think it’s always good to have veteran players there to help them and to talk to them and to communicate with them. And so it is what it is.”

Ilya Samsonov, who backed up Fucale, could get the start in goal Friday if Vanecek remains out.

–Field Level Media

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