(SportsNetwork.com) – The Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins will
meet for the first time since an entertaining playoff battle last spring when
the Metropolitan Division foes clash Saturday night in Ohio.
The Blue Jackets entered last season’s first-round postseason series as heavy
underdogs, but Columbus was able to take two games from the Pens in the
surprisingly competitive matchup. Both of Columbus’ wins came after regulation
and it seemed no lead was safe for either team as the first five games all
Although Columbus fell in six games to the Pens it was a landmark playoff
series for the Blue Jackets franchise. After getting swept in its only
previous playoff appearance — a 4-0 series loss to Detroit in 2009 — the
Jackets were able to post the first two postseason wins in club history.
Pittsburgh has dominated the Blue Jackets in the regular season, however,
winning six straight in the series. The Pens own a 14-4-1 record against
Columbus and have won five straight meetings at Nationwide Arena.
A familiar face will be absent from the Penguins side tonight, as captain
Sidney Crosby will sit out a second straight game due to an illness. The
Penguins were able to win on Friday without Crosby, who is tied for second in
the NHL with 35 points on nine goals and 26 assists in 27 games.
Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford said in a statement there is “no
indication” Crosby has the mumps, a viral infection generally found in
children that has hit several NHL locker rooms recently. The Penguins said
medical specialists recommended Crosby be held out for a couple of games
following new test results.
Rutherford said they would have “additional test results in a few days.”
The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, will play tonight without forward Scott Hartnell,
who is expected to miss two weeks with a broken finger suffered in Thursday’s
win over Washington.
Hartnell was not a member of the Blue Jackets during last season’s playoff
series. He has six goals and 11 assists in 28 games in 2014-15, his first
season with Columbus following a trade from the Philadelphia Flyers.
Columbus enters this playoff rematch on its best stretch of the season, having
opened December on a five-game winning streak. The Blue Jackets were just
6-15-2 heading into this month and had not posted a winning streak of more
than two games.
The Blue Jackets’ last two victories have come via 3-2 overtime decisions.
Columbus earned a win Thursday in Washington thanks to Nick Foligno’s power-
play marker with 18.8 seconds remaining in overtime. It was Foligno’s second
goal of the game and 13th of the season. He had 18 goals in 70 games in
Jason Chimera was whistled for interference in the extra session, putting the
Blue Jackets on the man advantage at the 3:03 mark of OT. After Sergei
Bobrovsky made two huge short-handed saves, Jack Johnson, who drew the penalty
from Chimera, dished to Foligno for a one-timer from the right circle. The
puck sailed over Braden Holtby’s glove for the win.
Bobrovsky earned First Star honors after anchoring the Jackets with a 39-save
Kevin Connauton, who scored the overtime game-winner in Columbus’ OT triumph
against Philadelphia on Tuesday, tied the game at 2-2 with a one-timer from
the point at 10:59.
“It wasn’t the start that we wanted but we found a way to get our legs and get
back into the game in large part because our goalie made some big saves for
us,” said Columbus head coach Todd Richards
Bobrovsky is 5-4-1 with a 3.05 goals against average in his career against
Sans Crosby, Pittsburgh was able to record a 3-1 home win over the Calgary
Flames on Friday. Blake Comeau and Kris Letang posted early scores, while Rob
Klinkhammer provided a late tally to help the Pens take the meeting at Consol
Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves for the Penguins, who won for the sixth time
in their last nine and extended their lead over the Islanders atop the
Metropolitan Division to three points.
“Great job by them blocking shots,” Fleury said of his defensemen and penalty
killers, who kept Calgary scoreless in five chances. “Keeping them to the
outside and out from in front of the net. Very solid night.”
Pens defenseman Olli Maatta also missed a second straight game due to an
upper-body injury and he could sit out again tonight. Maatta missed six games
earlier this season after having a cancerous tumor removed from his thyroid.
Pittsburgh has said Maatta’s current injury is not related to the thyroid
Pittsburgh is 9-2-2 on the road this season. After tonight’s test, the Pens
will return to the Steel City for a three-game homestand, beginning with
Monday’s showdown against the Tampa Bay Lightning.