Pittsburgh Penguins Visit Columbus Blue Jackets


Tonight the Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Columbus Blue Jackets. What can we expect from the game? Hits, fights, and – hopefully – scoring.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are in Columbus, Ohio, tonight, ready to take on the rival Blue Jackets. As the season winds down, every point is important and every able-bodied player is crucial to the lineup.

The Penguins’ projected lineup is, however, scarcely clearer than it was yesterday. Marc-Andre Fleury will probably get the start in goal based on the morning skate. Injured players Carl Hagelin, Beau Bennett, Eric Fehr, and Ben Lovejoy were all practicing with the team again, though coach Mike Sullivan has not made any announcements on which of them will be in tonight, if any.

Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, and Phil Kessel were all missing from the morning skate, but it’s likely that they’re just resting in preparation for tonight.

CBJ’s star goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky, will be rejoining the lineup and getting the start tonight after being out due to an injury. The Blue Jackets’ goalie situation is actually pretty similar to the Penguins’: a great starting goalie prone to stretches of error, a backup who’s good but not reliable, and a promising young starter in the AHL who’ll take the reins down the road.

Columbus’s probable scratches are Jack Johnson and Brandon Saad, one of the team’s best defensemen and best forwards, respectively. Johnson hasn’t been phenomenal this season, but his big body is a major asset for the Jackets.

Saad, a Pittsburgh native, has already set a career high in goals scored this year and would surely love to bolster that stat against his hometown team. Luckily, he likely won’t have that chance this evening, since head coach John Tortorella has categorized him as day-to-day.

Jared Boll is projected to be in the lineup for CBJ, bringing an intimidating presence to the fourth line. That may influence Sullivan’s decision in regard to if he plays Tom Sestito tonight.

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Following morning skate, Sullivan reiterated that Fehr and Hagelin will be game-time decisions. That sounds a lot like Beau Bennett will not be in the lineup regardless of if he feels healthy enough.

The only consistent thing about the Penguins’ play lately is their pattern of win-loss-win-loss ad nauseam. If they stick to that pattern, tonight should be a win. Crazy? Probably. But with a sport as fluky as hockey, you’ve got to rely on a little superstition.

What the Penguins need to do tonight is hit hard and shoot the puck. Games against Columbus are always physical if not violent, and those hits and fights set the tone of the game. Assuming the refs don’t turn a blind eye to that as they sometimes have before, the Penguins should get their fair share of powerplays.

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To actual take advantage of those, they just need to put the puck on net. That seems like common sense, but they just haven’t been doing enough of that lately. Malkin’s return sparked the PP a little, but it’s declined again recently as all the players seem to do is pass to each other and even allow shorthanded chances.

The remainder of the Penguins’ schedule is tough, full of back-to-back game nights and division rivals. Getting two points against the Blue Jackets tonight is absolutely critical, and could be a major confidence boost for that difficult final stretch.