Game 3 Preview: Take Another Step Forward

Jamie Sabau

The Jackets proved many things to themselves, the Penguins, and their collective doubters. Now, they return home to Nationwide Arena with a chance to take another step toward playoff glory.

Game 3 - Series Tied 1-1

Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue Jackets

April 21, 2014 - 7:00 pm EDT
Nationwide Arena - Columbus, Ohio
Radio - WBNS 97.1 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio / NBCSN
Opponent's Blog: Pensburgh

First of all, my apologies for getting this posted so late today. My family and I planned a vacation many months ago to North Carolina, and we arrived home shortly before 2:45 AM this fine morning (2-year-old sleeping in the car FTW). Thus, well, this morning was a bit of a train wreck.

All of that aside, the series shifts back to Columbus for the first time, and the Jackets will be hosting a playoff game for the first time in five years (Game 3 in 2009 was five year ago to the day). With a win in Pittsburgh under their belts--and having garnered it in pretty astounding fashion, I'd say--I don't know that anyone really knows what to expect.

I keep coming back to (an admittedly apples-and-oranges) comparison to the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Detroit Pistons in 2007. That series was supposed to be a laugher for Detroit, and they went up 2-0 at home. The Cavs won game three and game four in Cleveland, but pundits and fans of the Pistons kept insisting that "Detroit just hasn't played their game yet. The Cavs now have their attention."

Which might be the most condescending tone imaginable, but I digress.

At any rate, we all kept waiting for the Pistons to "turn it on" and take over, to dispatch the Cavs and move on.

We're still waiting.

The Cavs, brimming with confidence (and, well, LeBron James), never lost another game in that series.

I'm NOT saying that will happen here. I AM saying that I don't buy into the "oh, the Penguins aren't trying!" meme that I've read about. If they didn't get a wake-up call down 3-1 in game 1 and didn't respect the Jackets at that point, well, let's just say I don't buy it. When I keep reading things about the Penguins not yet playing "their" game, I wonder why so many Penguins fans are quick to assume that the Jackets' play has had nothing to do with that.

And, tonight, Columbus gets a couple of added bonuses. They can better set the matchups they want with the last-line-change at home. In addition, Nick Foligno returns for the Jackets, bumping Corey Tropp from the lineup. It's not all sunshine and lollipops, however, as Fedor Tyutin will not play. Dalton Prout gets his spot, and the D-pairs will be shuffled accordingly. Losing Tyutin hurts, but let's be honest... they played the majority of Game 2 without him and didn't get crushed. Todd Richards will just have to be smart with how he matches up Prout, who is not the fleetest of foot.

For the Penguins, Game 2 star Brian Gibbons will be out. It looks like it could be Jayson Megna filling in, but other options include Chris Connor or Taylor Pyatt.

While the Special Teams numbers oddly favor the Jackets right now, Columbus can ill afford the parade to the penalty box from Game 2. Both teams' Power Plays have been good. The Jackets need to play with that edge, yes, but they need to be responsible. The refs are calling things like interference especially tight in this series, and that Jackets just can't keep giving the Penguins chances.

Tonight is the chance for another step forward for this franchise, and some more firsts: first lead in a series, and first home playoff win. While it's been great, I'm tired of "firsts". I'm looking for "nexts". Who will be the next Jacket to step up? Who will score the next clutch goal? Who will deliver the next big play on the PK? Who will be the next hero?

I want this to be what we expect. And I can't wait to hear the barn tonight. Let's drown out those Yinzers and bring Nationwide back to what I remember from Games 3 and 4 in 2009.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(regular season: 43-32-7, 93 Points; 4th division, 7th conference)

Boone Jenner Ryan Johansen Jack Skille
Matt Calvert Brandon Dubinsky Cam Atkinson
R.J. Umberger Artem Anisimov Nick Foligno
Derek MacKenzie Mark Letestu Blake Comeau
Jack Johnson David Savard
Ryan Murray James Wisniewski
Nikita Nikitin Dalton Prout
Sergei Bobrovsky
Curtis McElhinney

Pittsburgh Penguins
(regular season: 51-24-7, 109 Points; 1st Division, 2nd Conference)

Chris Kunitz Sidney Crosby Beau Bennett
Jussi Jokinen Evgeni Malkin James Neal
Tanner Glass Brandon Sutter Lee Stempniak
Jayson Megna Joe Vitale Craig Adams
Brooks Orpik Paul Martin
Rob Scuderi Kris Letang
Olli Maatta Matt Niskanen
Marc-Andre Fleury
Jeff Zatkoff

Series Results

04/16/14 - Columbus 3 at Pittsburgh 4
04/19/14 - Columbus 4 at Pittsburgh 3 (2OT)
04/21/14 - Pittsburgh at Columbus
04/23/14 - Pittsburgh at Columbus
04/26/14 - Columbus at Pittsburgh
04/28/14 - Pittsburgh at Columbus*
04/30/14 - Columbus at Pittsburgh*
*if necessary

Head to Head Stats

Pittsburgh Columbus
3.50 GPG 3.50
3.50 GAPG 3.50
27.3% (3-for-11) PP% 30.0% (3-for-10)
70.0% (7-for-10) PK% 72.7% (8-for-11)
Brian Gibbons / Matt Niskanen, 2 G leader Matt Calvert / Jack Johnson, 2
Paul Martin, 4 A leader three tied, 2
Paul Martin / Matt Niskanen, 4 Pts leader Jack Johnson, 3
Kris Letang, 6 PIM leader Blake Comeau, 8
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