December 31, 2011; Columbus, OH, USA; Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Keys To the Match Up: CBJ @ WSH

Here is a quick look at the Keys to the Match Up for tonight’s game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Washington Capitals. The Jackets have had a tough time containing the Metropolitan Division’s marquee teams, having already lost to the Capitals earlier in October, as well as the Rangers and Penguins. Columbus gets another chance tonight to take down the Caps, who are currently second in the division, as well as build upon Saturday’s decisive victory over the New York Islanders.

1. Keep the Dubinsky / Atkinson / Johansen line together and rolling:

The Blue Jackets finally have a formidable top line that produced on Saturday against New York. The Jackets need to rely on this line again to set the scoring pace, and have the other lines fall in behind them. For the first few weeks of the season, there was little cohesion in the Jackets lines, as Coach Todd Richards shuffled things around looking for something to stick. Well, he finally has stumbled upon one that works, now it is time to let them do their job. In the mean time, the other lines need to find their scoring touch and support the top line.

2. Contain the Washington PP

Washington comes into tonight’s game with one of the most dangerous PP units in the NHL. Their PP% of 26.7 currently leads the NHL. The Jackets are averaging 11.2 penalty minutes per game (10th fewest in the NHL), but even then that is more than enough for Alex Ovechkin to take advantage of on the power play. Columbus needs to avoid penalties and continue killing them off. The penalty kill has looked a bit better lately, but Columbus’ PK% of 78.8 puts them at 23rd in the NHL. (Stats courtesy of

3. Come Out How They Left Saturday

Columbus kept the pedal to the metal on Saturday until the final horn sounded. They need to pick up where they left off and bring the same energy on the road in Washington. They have two games on the road (including tonight) before one game at home, and then it is back on the road for a 5 game stretch. The Jackets need to build off the win Saturday and roll through this busy stretch. Tonight against Washington can get them off to a good start and show that the team we saw on Saturday is the real Columbus Blue Jackets.

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