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Game Preview #29: Continuing the Streak

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The Blue Jackets entertain the Penguins in the regular season debut for the two squads. Can Columbus conjure up the same mojo they showed in last year's playoff matchup?

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue Jackets

December 13, 2014 - 7:00 PM EST
Nationwide Arena- Columbus, Ohio
Radio - WBNS 97.1 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponent's Blog:  Pensburgh

Blue Jackets. Penguins.  Nationwide Arena.   The echoes of last April still resonate in the rafters.  Fast forward eight months, and while the Penguins are in their familiar lofty perch at the top of the standings, the Blue Jackets are in the midst of a recovery from a season long injury string, but have five consecutive wins coming into this one.  Scott Hartnell is the latest victim, as he started a two week stint on IR for a broken finger incurred in the Washington victory.  He is the third Blue Jacket to be so afflicted this season (Boone Jenner and Sergei Bobrovsky being the others), but Kerby Rychel has been recalled to fill the void.

The Penguins have their own  health issues.  Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang just returned from injury, and Sidney Crosby will miss this one due to illness.  If the photos are any indication, mumps is a likely culprit.  Chris Kunitz remains out, and a survey of the other lines reveals few familiar names. One recognizable name is Blake Comeau, who is having a productive season for the Penguins, and will make his first trip back to Nationwide since signing his free agent deal in the off-season.

Pittsburgh is playing the second half of a back-to-back, having beaten the Calgary Flames last night, 3 - 1.  The Penguins were outshot, but Marc-Andre Fleury was solid.  Evgeni Malkin leads the club with 15 goals, and the Penguins boast the #2 power play unit in the league.  The Capitals held that same slot when they hosted Columbus on Tuesday.  No morning skate for Pittsburgh today, so the lineup is our best guess, figuring that Thomas Greiss will draw in for the net duties tonight.

No mysteries for what the Blue Jackets need to do in this one.  Stay out of the box, skate and put shots on net.  North-South hockey is the key, and they cannot allow themselves be intimidated by the Penguins' speed.  The crowd will be raucous for both sides, so this promises to be a fun one.

Interesting side note:  In its preview of this one, the Penguins' web site goes to great lengths to highlight its regulation success against Columbus, but makes nary a mention of the two playoff losses last season.  How soon they forget . . .

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets 
(11-15-2, 24Points; 7th division, 14th conference)

Kerby Rychel Nick Foligno Brian Gibbons
Boone Jenner Ryan Johansen Jack Skille
Matt Calvert Brandon Dubinsky Cam Atkinson
Corey Tropp Michael Chaput Jared Boll
Jordan Leopold Dalton Prout
Jack Johnson David Savard
Kevin Connauton James Wisniewski
Sergei Bobrovsky
Curtis McElhinney

Pittsburgh Penguins
(19-6-3, 41 Points; 1st Division, 1st Conference)

Steve Downie Nick Spaling Patric Hornqvist
Evgeni Malkin Brandon Sutter Blake Comeau
Rob Klinkhammer Marcel Goc Jayson Megna
Zach Sill Andrew Ebbett Craig Adams
Christian Ehrhoff Robert Bortuzzo
Rob Scuderi Paul Martin
Kris Letang Simon Despres
Thomas Greiss
Marc-Andre Fleury

Season Series

12/13/14 - Pittsburgh at Columbus
2/19/15 - Columbus at Pittsburgh
3/1/15 - Columbus at Pittsburgh
4/4/15 -- Pittsburgh at Columbus

Head to Head Stats

Pittsburgh Columbus
3.18 (3) GPG 2.36 (23)
2.29(6) GAPG 3.25 (28)
27.5% (2) PP% 23.3% (5)
86.8% (4) PK% 76.7% (26)
Evgeny Malkin, 15 G leader Nick Foligno, 13
Sidney Crosby, 26 A leader Ryan Johansen, 18
Evgeni Malkin/ Sidney Crosby, 35 Pts leader Ryan Johansen, 27
Steve Downie, 85 PIM leader Jared Boll, 44
9-2-2 Home/Road 5-8-1
6-3-1 Last 10 5-4-1
12/12 vs Calgary, W 3 - 1 Last Game 12/11 @ Washinton, W 3-2 (OT)