Pittsburgh Penguins (46-22-5) at Columbus Blue Jackets (37-29-6), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Columbus Blue Jackets hope that they are catching
the Pittsburgh Penguins at the right time.
Their playoff chances may depend on it.
The Blue Jackets hope to beat the struggling Penguins for the first time in
five meetings this season as the clubs square off on Friday night at
Columbus has been outscored 14-6 by Pittsburgh this season and has lost five
straight and nine of the previous 11 meetings overall. That includes a four-
game slide at home, where the Blue Jackets have not beaten the Pens since a
shootout win on March 12, 2009.
However, the Penguins come in trying to avoid their first four-game slide of
the season after a 3-2 setback to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night. The
loss prevented Pittsburgh from securing a playoff spot as it needed to notch
just one point.
Taylor Pyatt and Chris Kunitz scored for Pittsburgh, but Los Angeles got the
winner from Drew Doughty early in the third period. Backup Jeff Zatkoff made
29 saves in the Penguins' sixth loss in eight games, though they still lead
the Metropolitan Division by 11 points over the New York Rangers.
The Penguins also thought they tied the game at the 9:41 mark of the third
period, but a video review showed that Pittsburgh's Brandon Sutter pushed L.A.
goaltender Martin Jones' pad and the puck into the net, impeding Jones'
ability to play his position.
"I was pretty surprised," Sutter said. "I just thought the puck came through
the crease and I was just trying to jam away at it and it was loose the whole
time. I definitely got pushed into the net and the puck went off of me
"I have no idea how they didn't call it a goal."
Having recently lost center Evgeni Malkin to a foot injury, the Penguins also
saw pivot Marcel Goc exit last night's game in the final minute of the second
period with a lower-body injury after he crashed into the boards following a
While Pittsburgh can afford a slump given its advantage atop the division,
Columbus has no such luxury. The Blue Jackets are one of four teams tied for
the two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference with 80 points, joined by the
Detroit Red Wings, Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs.
The good news for the Blue Jackets is they own one of the current tiebreakers,
having played the fewest games. They have 10 games remaining on the schedule,
while the Red Wings and Capitals both have nine left. The Maple Leafs have
just eight contests remaining and visit the Philadelphia Flyers tonight.
The Blue Jackets could, however, be without No. 1 goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky
tonight. He exited Tuesday's 4-2 victory over the Red Wings after one period
due to illness and was unable to practice on Thursday.
Curtis McElhinney relieved Bobrovsky and made 22 saves versus the Red Wings,
while Ryan Johansen scored twice and both Cam Atkinson and Brandon Dubinsky
"He was great, coming in a tough situation in a huge game," said Columbus head
coach Todd Richards about McElhinney. "They pushed - you have to give Detroit
a lot of credit for how they played. They had some opportunities and Curtis
made some huge saves for us, and he looked calm. In a big, high-pressured
game, he looked very calm."
The Blue Jackets had lost four of six going into Tuesday's game.
If Bobrovsky can't play tonight, Mike McKenna would serve as the backup to
McElhinney, who is 0-3-0 with a 2.84 goals against average lifetime versus the
Bobrovsky is 5-4-1 with a 3.05 GAA in his career when facing the Penguins, who
are likely to start No. 1 Marc-Andre Fleury in this game. Fleury is 5-1-1 with
a 2.33 GAA in his career versus the Jackets.
03/28 10:48:56 ET
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