Game 39 Preview: Opportunity Knocks

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

The Jackets will be facing a battered Penguins team for their last home game of 2013, and there's a lot more than mere pride on the line. Do you have your money on the board?

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

December 29, 2013 - 6:00 pm EST
Nationwide Arena, Columbus Ohio
Radio - WBNS 97.1 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponent's Blog: Pensburgh
Blue Jackets vs. Penguins Game Coverage

After Friday's shootout win over the Devils, the Jackets are in a position to end 2013 on a serious high note. Riding a three game win streak into this evening's matchup against the Penguins, Columbus is two points behind Philly and Jersey for the third place spot in the division, and if I'm doing my math correctly, would leapfrog both on tiebreakers with a win tonight.

Even more significantly, they're also just six points behind the Capitals for second place, and bring more regulation / overtime wins to the party. Keep playing well, and by the end of the team's Western Conference swing next week we could be talking about taking over the #2 slot in the Metro.

But that also means you have to take care of business at every opportunity.

The Penguins are still atop the Metro by 13 points, and sit almost 20 points ahead of Columbus. Their +34 goal differential is the best in the Eastern Conference, and they still have this guy named Sid who I'm told is pretty decent at hockey.

Now, that said, this is not the same lineup Columbus faced earlier in the season.

Pascal Dupuis is done for the year. Evgeni Malkin is on the shelf again. Their defense is still more Wilkes-Barre than Pittsburgh, and Marc-Andre Fleury remains a roulette wheel when it comes to good goalie vs. bad goalie on any given night.

BREAKING: Jeff Zatkoff is getting the start tonight per Rob Mixer.

In the wake of the news that Derek MacKenzie was questionable for today, the team did call Ryan Craig up from the Falcons, but it sounds like the full team is on ice this morning, so I'm guessing this was just a precaution.

If you were following Aaron Portzline on twitter yesterday, you know there was a lot of passion in practice yesterday, and things boiled over, but it seems to have had a positive effect on the team. Everyone knows this game means a lot, and they're getting fired up. The challenge is that you can't let that passion overwhelm your good hockey sense. Play with fire, but don't get burned.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(17-17-4, 38 Points; 5th division, 11th conference)

Nick Foligno Ryan Johansen R.J. Umberger
Brandon Dubinsky Artem Anisimov Cam Atkinson
Jack Skille Derek MacKenzie Blake Comeau
Boone Jenner Mark Letestu Corey Tropp
Fedor Tyutin Jack Johnson
Ryan Murray James Wisniewski
Nikita Nikitin David Savard
Curtis McElhinney
Mike McKenna

Pittsburgh Penguins
(28-11-1, 57 Points; 1st division, 1st conference)

Chris Kunitz Sidney Crosby Joe Vitale
Chris Conner Jussi Jokinen James Neal
Harry Zolnieczyk Brandon Sutter Chuck Kobasew
Craig Adams Zach Sill Tanner Glass
Brooks Orpik Deryk Engelland
Olli Maatta Matt Niskanen
Simon Despres Robert Bortuzzo
Jeff Zatkoff
Marc-Andre Fleury

Season Series

11/01/13 - Columbus 2 at Pittsburgh 4
11/02/13 - Pittsburgh 3 at Columbus 0
12/09/13 - Columbus 1 at Pittsburgh 2
12/29/13 - Pittsburgh at Columbus
03/28/14 - Pittsburgh at Columbus

Head to Head Stats

Pittsburgh Columbus
3.05 (5) GPG 2.66 (14)
2.28 (4) GAPG 2.79 (18)
24.6% (3) PP% 17.5% (18)
86.4% (2) PK% 82.2% (15)
Sidney Crosby, 21 G leader Ryan Johansen, 15
Sidney Crosby, 34 A leader James Wisniewski, 18
Sidney Crosby, 55 Pts leader Ryan Johansen, 30
Tanner Glass, 38 PIM leader Brandon Dubinsky, 68
11-8-1 Home/Road 9-8-2
12/27 @ Carolina, W 4-3 Last Game 12/27 @ New Jersey, W 2-1
8-2-0 Last 10 6-3-1

Two last things before you go:

  • With so much riding on this game, the Arch City Army decided to start another #MoneyOnTheBoard campaign. As of last night they're at $1000 raised for the Mid-Ohio Food Bank. Things can be tight right after the holidays, but if you've got a little to give, consider supporting the team and families in need.
  • I'm already hearing Penguins fans talk about how they're looking forward to a home game today. Let's see if we can prove them wrong.

The Jackets have been playing the Pens hard in their last two meetings, and they were a shot off the post away from forcing OT in their last meeting. Tonight is one of the last regular season meetings between the teams, and the Jackets need to make it count.

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