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Game Preview #36 – Captainless

Blue Jackets at Penguins – 7:00 PM
Game Faceoff

Brandon Dubinsky noted that sometimes these getaway games–the last game before some time off–can often be “sleepy” though he vowed not to let that happen. But, lest we sit and wonder what encore he and Sidney Crosby might come up with, it was reported that Crosby will not play. Neither will Nick Foligno.


In all seriousness, the Penguins are getting a dose of what the Blue Jackets were stuck eating all of last season, as the injury bug has decimated their lineup. And, with the top-heavy nature of said lineup, this isn’t a team that can withstand having the guys on the shelf that they do: Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Kris Letang, and Beau Bennet are all out tonight.

Foligno is out after sustaining a small injury against Philly the other night, and with the break coming up hopefully a week off is what the doctor ordered. The Jackets do get Jack Johnson back tonight, and Kevin Connauton will sit according to the team’s published lines and pairs. Rene Bourque sees his first action in quite awhile in place of Foligno.

The Jackets basically are what they have been: a team that alternates between playing well for stretches and playing terrible for stretches. A win tonight against a struggling and under-manned Pens team would finish off a tough stretch of 11 games in 21 days with three straight wins, and would send the Penguins to a sixth straight loss. Pittsburgh is currently 2-6-3 in their last 11.

For the Pens, Matt Murray will get the start in net. The 2012 third round pick is making just his second NHL start after allowing two goals on 26 shots against Carolina on Thursday in his NHL debut. He looks to be no rookie slouch, either, as he has a sizzling 1.84 gaa and .938 sv% in 17 AHL games this season after posting a 1.58 gaa and .941 sv% in 40 games in the AHL last season after turning pro at the end of his ’13-’14 junior season. Joonas Korpisalo, also a 2012 third round pick, gets his fourth NHL start tonight. The two were picked 21 spots apart in 2012, with Korpisalo going 62nd to Columbus and Murray going 83rd to Pittsburgh.

Columbus seems to get up for these games against Pittsburgh, ever since their hard fought 2014 playoff series. I expect a full effort, mainly because guys like Dubinsky and Scott Hartnell simply won’t allow anything else against the Pens, especially in their building.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(13-19-3, 29 Points; 8th division, 16th conference)

Boone Jenner Ryan Johansen Brandon Saad
Matt Calvert Brandon Dubinsky Cam Atkinson
Scott Hartnell Alexander Wennberg Rene Bourque
Gregory Campbell William Karlsson David Clarkson

Fedor Tyutin Ryan Murray
Jack Johnson Dalton Prout
Justin Falk Andrew Bodnarchuk

Joonas Korpisalo
Curtis McElhinney

Pittsburgh Penguins
(15-14-3, 33 Points; 6th Division, 12th Conference)

David Perron Evgeni Malkin Phil Kessel
Conor Sheary Nick Bonino Chris Kunitz
Sergei Plotnikov Scott Wilson Patric Hornqvist
Eric Fehr Matt Cullen Bryan Rust

Olli Maatta Trevor Daley
Ian Cole David Warsofsky
Brian Dumoulin Ben Lovejoy

Matt Murray
Jeff Zatkoff