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Game #71 Preview for a game that is now canceled: Minus fans, Blue Jackets need their energy against Penguins

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Columbus needs another two points tonight against Pittsburgh.

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue Jackets Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday March 12, 2020 - 7:00 EST
Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
TV: Fox Sports Ohio - Radio: WBNS FM
Opponent’s blog: Pensburgh

Pittsburgh Penguins, 40-23-6, 86 points, 3rd Metro, 5th East

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Columbus Blue Jackets, 33-22-15, 81 points, 5th Metro, 8th East

If a hockey game is played and no one is there to see it, did it really happen?

Though sports are a nice break from reality, the two have become intertwined. With news of the spreading Coronavirus, it’s affected the way sports — as well as everyone — goes about their business and daily lives in effort to reduce the amount of risk for everyone. That includes not only no spectators for tonight’s game between the Blue Jackets and Penguins, but also the remaining four home games for the Blue Jackets during the 2019-20 season.

As news and updates of the Coronavirus changes, almost by the minute, and as sports leagues around the world react to accommodate latest safety measures, it remains to be seen what could still happen, such as postponement of games. The NBA has already done so as of last night, and the NHL is expected to release an announcement later today.

As it currently stands, there is a hockey game to be played. The Blue Jackets and Penguins skate into tonight's matchup nearly mirroring one another to a tee. While Columbus has dealt with its share of injuries, the Penguins have also suffered significant injuries throughout the season. Additionally, Pittsburgh is 5th in the Eastern Conference, while Columbus is eight, but tied for sixth points-wise. Both have struggled in recent weeks, as Pittsburgh is 3-7-0 in their last 10; Columbus is 3-4-3.

In case you’ve forgotten, as it’s been a couple months, Columbus is 1-1-1 against Pittsburgh this season with the last game between the two clubs Dec. 12. The Blue Jackets won the lone home game in the series to date, a Black Friday game Nov. 29 that saw Gustav Nyquist score a hat trick against the visitors.

Player to Watch

Former Wild player Jason Zucker now suits up as a member of the Penguins, so he hasn’t seen Columbus yet this year. Zucker is signed through the 2022-23 season ($5.5 mil cap hit). Overall he’s got 41 points in 60 games (20 goals, 21 assists), and in 12 games with the Penguins he has 15 points (six goals, six assists). In 10 career games against the Blue Jackets, Zucker has three points (two goals, one assist).

Jackets Notes

According to Blue Jackets insider Jeff Svoboda, Cam Atkinson will be back in the lineup tonight after missing time since Feb. 8 with a sprained ankle. ... In Wednesday’s practice, he lined up with Riley Nash and Eric Robinson, taking the place of Kevin Stenlund. ... Elliot Friedman had a piece Wednesday that alluded to possible contract extension talks between the Blue Jackets and Elvis Merzlikins. ... Nick Foligno is just four goals away from 200 in his career.

The Other Bench

Patrick Marleau (11 goals, 11 assists) was acquired by the Penguins from the Sharks at last month’s trade deadline and has one goal, one assist in eight games for Pittsburgh. ... Matt Murray (20-11-5, .899 SV%, 2.87 GAA) and Tristan Jarry (20-12-1, .921, 2.43) have split time in the net this season. ... Jake Guentzel is out for the rest of the season following shoulder surgery in late December. ... Sidney Crosby (16-31) has been limited to 41 games this season as he dealt with a sports hernia earlier this season. ... Evgeni Malkin (25-49), who also dealt with injury earlier this season, leads his club in assists, points (74), and penalty minutes (58).

Season Series

10/02/2019 CBJ 2 @ PIT 7
11/29/2019 PIT 2 @ CBJ 5
12/12/2019 CBJ 0 @ PIT 1
03/12/2020 PIT @ CBJ

Stats

Pittsburgh Columbus
3.20 (10) GPG 2.57 (27)
2.84 (11) GAPG 2.61 (3)
19.9% (16) PP% 16.4% (27)
82.1% (8) PK% 81.7% (12)
51.0%(9) 5v5 Corsi % 49.1% (19)
51.5% (6) 5v5 Fenwick % 50.9% (11)
8.7 (8) 5v5 Shot % 6.8 (28)
.915 (20) 5v5 Save % .928 (5)
Bryan Rust, 27 G Leader Oliver Bjorkstrand, 21
Evgeni Malkin, 49 A Leader Pierre-Luc Dubois, 31
Evgeni Malkin 74 P Leader Pierre-Luc Dubois, 49
Evgeni Malkin, 58 PIM Leader Nick Foligno, 62
17-15-2 Home / Road 20-12-4
3-7-0 Last 10 3-4-3

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
Gus Nyquist Boone Jenner Nick Foligno
Alexander Wennberg Pierre-Luc Dubois Emil Bemstrom
Jakob Lilja Devin Shore Stefan Matteau
Eric Robinson Riley Nash Cam Atkinson
Zach Werenski Markus Nutivaara
Vladislav Gavrikov David Savard
Scott Harrington Andrew Peeke
Elvis Merzlikins
Joonas Korpisalo
Pittsburgh Penguins
Jason Zucker Sidney Crosby Conor Sheary
Patrick Marleau Evgeni Malkin Bryan Rust
Evan Rodrigues Jared McCann Patric Hornqvist
Sam Lafferty Teddy Blueger Brandon Tanev
Brian Dumoulin Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson John Marino
Jack Johnson Justin Schultz
Matt Murray
Tristan Jarry