Blue Jackets-Capitals Preview

The Associated Press

Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates is making line changes to try to jump-start his team.

His club's next opponent, the Columbus Blue Jackets, come to town on a three-game slide and unsure if their best player will be available.

These struggling teams are both looking for answers heading into Saturday night's matchup in Washington.

The Capitals (2-5-0) fell 2-0 at home to the Rangers on Wednesday, dropping to 1-3-0 on this five-game homestand.

Oates decided Friday to make some changes, dropping Mikhail Grabovski from the second line to the third and Eric Fehr from the third line to a part-time role on the fourth. Brooks Laich will center the second line, with Martin Erat moving onto that group from the fourth line.

"I know we talk a lot about chemistry and that's important," Oates said. "I just felt a couple guys weren't playing good enough for the minutes they are getting and they need to know that. It could be a short-term change but we had to make a couple changes."

Erat has yet to register a point, but the former Nashville winger has 53 in his career versus Columbus (2-4-0) - his highest total against any opponent.

Grabovski, who has one point in his last five games in his first season with Washington, will now center a line with Joel Ward and former Blue Jackets winger Jason Chimera.

"I played with Chimera in preseason games, a very good player, fast, I need to use his speed, just give him the puck," Grabovski said.

The Blue Jackets are not sure if Marian Gaborik will be available. Gaborik, who has a team-high six points, was a late scratch Thursday due to the flu from a 5-3 loss at Montreal.

Columbus rallied from a three-goal deficit to tie the game, only to allow Tomas Plekanec's go-ahead tally with 1:07 remaining.

"We didn't start the game on time and we were doing a lot of standing still while they were skating," coach Todd Richards said. "We talked about it before the game and for whatever reason, our execution and the speed of the game overwhelmed us."

One bright spot was 20-year-old Boone Jenner, who scored his first two goals in his fifth career game.

''We're a team that never quits,'' Jenner said. ''We're not going to change our game no matter what the score is. We were down 3-0 and we started to pick it up."

Jenner scored twice on the power play, contributing to a unit that ranks among the NHL's best at 27.3 percent. Washington is also stellar in that department, leading all Eastern Conference clubs at 30.8 percent.

That's one reason Oates isn't concerned with his club's offense even though Washington was shut out for the first time Wednesday and Alex Ovechkin failed to register a point for the second time.

"We had plenty of chances to score," Oates said. "We will every night. We have to take care of our own end."

Washington is 3-0-1 in the last four meetings, all decided by one goal.

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