Preview: Slay the Dragon

Columbus and Pittsburgh face off one more time, with playoff seeding at stake

Tonight the Columbus Blue Jackets host the Pittsburgh Penguins in the final regular season game at Nationwide Arena.

After 80 games each, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions find themselves with the exact same record as the Blue Jackets. At second and third place in the Metro, respectively, the teams could be headed for a rematch of last year’s first round playoff matchup. If so, the result of tonight’s game could determine which team gets the all-important home ice advantage in that series.

The first two games of the season series were as close as could be, with each game going to the shootout in Pittsburgh. The third game, in Columbus, was all Pens. Fortunately, the Blue Jackets of March and April hardly resemble the Blue Jackets of December and February. One secret weapon? Former Pittsburgh defenseman Ian Cole, now playing a key role on the Blue Jackets blue line.

Former Blue Jacket Derick Brassard is unlikely to play, as he has missed three games with a groin injury. On the Columbus side, Josh Anderson is expected to play for the first time since suffering a knee sprain on February 26. It’s unclear where he’ll fit in the lineup, but his scoring ability and his physical presence will be a welcome addition.

For fans of scoreboard watching, the Devils host the Maple Leaves, the Flyers host the Hurricanes, and the Panthers host the Bruins. Any loss by the Panthers in their remaining 3 games clinches a playoff berth for the Jackets, as would any win or OT/SO loss by the Jackets. Losses by the Devils and Flyers keep them in the wild card positions regardless of the Jackets’ result.

Projected Lineups

Artemi Panarin Pierre-Luc Dubois Cam Atkinson
Boone Jenner Alexander Wennberg Thomas Vanek
Sonny Milano Mark Letestu Oliver BJORKSTRAND
Matt Calvert Brandon Dubinsky Josh Anderson
Zach Werenski Seth Jones
Ian Cole David Savard
Ryan Murray Jack Johnson
Sergei Bobrovsky
Joonas Korpisalo
Jake Guentzel Sidney Crosby Bryan Rust
Carl Hagelin Evgeni Malkin Phil Kessel
Conor Sheary Riley Sheahan Patric Hornqvist
Zachary Aston-Reese Josh Jooris Tom Kuhnhackl
Brian Dumoulin Kris Letang
Olli Maatta Justin Schultz
Matt Hunwick Jamie Oleksiak
Matt Murray
Casey DeSmith

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