For 13 years the Capitals were fortunate to not spend more than a few hours in Columbus each season, let alone several days.
Now that they’re Metropolitan Division rivals, the Capitals have spent as much time in Ohio’s bustling college town as they have in D.C.
Two weeks ago the Caps spent three nights in Columbus during a long stop between games in Pittsburgh and New York.
This week they spent Tuesday and Wednesday nights in Columbus in preparation for tonight’s showdown against the Blue Jackets, a team the Capitals likely will need to beat out if they hope to return to the Stanley Cup playoffs for a seventh straight season.
Here’s a pregame primer as the two clubs prepare to battle at Nationwide Arena [7 p.m., CSN]:
Last time we met: The Blue Jackets rolled to a 5-1 win over the Caps on Friday., Jan. 17, chasing rookie Caps netminder Philipp Grubauer with three goals on 14 shots. Several players said they were not mentally prepared to face the Blue Jackets that night. The Caps lost three more times after that game to extend their losing streak to seven, but have won the last two games, scoring 10 goals. The Blue Jackets were in the midst of an eight-game winning streak when they beat the Caps, but have lost their last three games, including two at home.
Records: The Caps [24-21-8, 56 points] are 10-12-4 on the road this season. Columbus [26-23-4, 56 points] is 14-11-2 at home.
U.S.A: The Blue Jackets have eight Americans on their roster. The Caps have four.
Trending: The Blue Jackets have outscored opponents 48-35 in first periods this season. The Caps have been outscored 47-36 in the opening 20 minutes.
Special Teams: The Caps rank third in the NHL on the power play [22.9 percent] and tied for 19th on the penalty kill [80 percent]. Columbus ranks 13th on the PP [19.2] and tied for 19th on the PK [80.0].
Bob-tastic: Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is 3-0 in shootout this season, allowing one goal on nine shots. He is slated to get the start tonight.
Jacket killer: Marty Erat has five assists in three games against the Blue Jackets this season. Cam Atkinson has three goals against the Caps in three games.
Injuries: The Caps will be without center Mikhail Grabovski [left foot]. Columbus will be without forwards Marian Gaborik and Jared Boll.
Swedish buds: Caps forward Marcus Johansson and Columbus forward Tim Erixon won a bronze medal together for Sweden in the 2010 World Junior Championships.
Milestones: Joel Ward needs two assists to reach 100 in the NHL. Troy Brouwer needs four goals to hit 100 and four assists to hit 100.
More O: The Caps have scored four or more goals in five of their last seven games against the Blue Jackets.
Game over: Mike Green’s OT goal in Buffalo was the 11th of his career, second only to Scott Niedermayer  among NHL defensemen. Among active defensemen he is the second-fastest to reach 100 goals [in 483 games], behind only Sergei Gonchar .
Back-to-backs: The Caps are 5-2-3 in the first end of back-to-back games this season.