In advance of tonight’s showdown between the Northeast Division-leading Boston Bruins and Southeast Division-leading Washington Capitals, I caught up with J.P. from Japers’ Rink – a Capitals blogger who’s been covering the team since 2005.

Here’s what he had to say about the state of the Capitals: The team has such a great second half and run to the playoffs last season. Has there been much carryover this year from that?

J.P.: At times. It’s hard to say because this team has been decimated by injuries. But before the injuries hit, there were times that were reminiscent of last year and times that last year’s sense of urgency was (understandably) missing. Plus, they added a new goalie (Jose Theodore) to the mix, so that has been a bit of a rockier transition than they might have expected. The Bruins have had injuries, but they pale in comparison to what the Caps have had of late. How has the team dealt with that? Which injuries have hurt the most?

J.P.: The team has already used a dozen or so guys on the blue line, and the difficult thing is not just the number of injuries, but that they’re all more or less overlapping. The toughest injuries have been Alex Semin (who was leading the league in scoring when he got hurt) and Mike Green (who flat out makes the offense go). And Tom Poti. And Sergei Fedorov. And Jeff Schultz. And John Erskine. … Looking at the Caps’ recent results, they haven’t had a lengthy winning run since early November? What has to happen for them to get back on a hot streak?

J.P.: Health. Everything right now starts and ends with health because it’s difficult for defensemen to get any chemistry going when their partners are constantly changing, it’s hard for the goalies to get any chemistry with their defensemen, etc. There’s no question that once they finally do get healthy, there’ll be a run or two in store. In Boston, we’re always interested in Milan Jurcina as the one that got away. How has he been doing this year. What roles has he been cast in?

J.P.: Juice is an interesting case. When he arrived in D.C., he looked like Zdeno, Jr. for a few months. Then he regressed. Then he regressed some more. With the right partner, he’s looked serviceable at times, but he still makes a lot of mental mistakes and needs to use his body and his booming shot a little more effectively. He’s looked good lately, though, but when everyone’s healthy, he’s the sixth or seventh guy at best. Boston fans are getting carried away with the team’s hot start. What’s the feeling like in Washington? And are you anticipating a lengthy postseason run?

J.P.: The way the $4.5 million goalie has played, it’s hard to anticipate a lengthy postseason run, and I think everyone’s a little squeamish about that. But anyone can get hot, so who knows? The fans are definitely ready for a long run (it’s been a while), and after last spring’s disappointment, you can bet the players are too.

Thanks, J.P.