Blue Jackets hope to continue turnaround vs. Caps

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(SportsNetwork.com) - After suffering through a dreadful two months to begin the season, things finally appear to be turning around for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Now, the suddenly-streaking Blue Jackets will try to open December with a fifth straight victory when they visit the Washington Capitals on Thursday.

Columbus ended November on a six-game slide and that losing streak dropped the club to 6-15-2 on the season. However, Todd Richards' team began this month with two straight wins over Florida before adding to the hot streak with recent victories over Tampa Bay and Philadelphia.

Beset by injuries since before the season even began, Columbus is getting healthier and that's a big reason the club is playing its best hockey of the season at the moment.

The Blue Jackets welcomed Brandon Dubinsky to the lineup in Tuesday's home win over the Flyers. Dubinsky was activated from injured reserve earlier on Tuesday, and made his season debut after missing 26 games due to recovery from abdominal surgery.

Dubinsky recorded an assist in the 3-2 overtime win against the Flyers. Kevin Connauton, meanwhile, was the OT hero, ending the contest less than two minutes into the extra session

Before the contest ended at 1:58 of OT, however, the Flyers received a controversial game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation.

With 55.3 seconds to go, a deflection from Brayden Schenn of a point shot slipped through Columbus netminder Sergei Bobrovsky. Although referee Dave Jackson emphatically shook his head and raised his arms to stop play, televised replays revealed the puck was clearly over the line.

Further review quickly confirmed the marker and the game headed to overtime.

Connauton, however, would deliver the extra point for Columbus, ending the game after breaking in alone and lifting a wrister under the crossbar off a feed from Ryan Johansen.

Scott Hartnell scored a power-play goal in the second period for the Blue Jackets and Bobrovsky came up with 19 stops for the win. Boone Jenner also lit the lamp for the Blue Jackets, giving him a goal in four straight games.

Columbus, which made the playoffs for only the second time in team history last spring, is on its longest winning streak since an eight-game tear from Jan. 6-23.

"We're gaining some confidence," Richards said. "When you're winning games, you feel like you're going to win."

Bobrovsky is likely to start in net tonight. He is 3-1-2 with a 2.97 goals against average in his career against Washington.

The Capitals enter Thursday on a three-game winning streak of their own and can record four straight wins tonight for the first time since April 5-11.

Washington completed a perfect three-game road trip with Tuesday's win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Alex Ovechkin scored twice to fuel the Capitals' 5-3 triumph in Tampa.

Matt Niskanen, Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich also scored for the Capitals, while Braden Holtby made 33 saves in the win.

"You have to catch the teams ahead of you in the standings," said Brouwer. "Whenever you can gain ground with a win over a team ahead of you, you're doing things right."

Ovechkin has 14 goals this season after halting a four-game goalless drought on Tuesday. The Russian superstar has compiled 10 goals and an assist over 13 career games against the Blue Jackets.

Holtby is expected to start tonight and owns a 3-1-0 record and a 2.80 GAA in his career versus Columbus.

Washington, which is beginning a two-game homestand tonight, posted a 4-2 home win over the Blue Jackets on Nov. 11. That win was the Caps' sixth victory in the last eight overall meetings and Washington is 6-1-1 with a tie in nine all-time home encounters against Columbus.

The Blue Jackets have lost four straight in D.C. since last winning at the Verizon Center on Nov. 1, 2009.