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Pens Points Sunday: Columbus Gameday

Pens set to face the Jackets and might get one important piece back in the lineup. Is it too early to have the Hart conversation?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Good morning one and all!

The Pens are in the middle of their optional gameday morning skate at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. Taking the ice are Niskanen, Maatta, Scuderi, Engelland, Dumoulin, Kobasew, Conner, Jokinen, Sill, Zolnierczyk, Bortuzzo, Despres, Gibbons, Malkin, Fleury and Zatkoff. Jeff Zatkoff will get the start tonight, as confirmed by Dan Bylsma, while the rest of the lineup is game-time decision.

Looks like The Piece is coming back today. Malkin is still probably a game or two away and not rushing it, awaiting official clearance to take contact in practice. All that and more in today's Penguins notebook. Also, here's the game preview as the team heads into game 41, officially marking half of their regular season.

So far, the Pens have been very unlucky with injuries. There is a silver lining here, given that apart from Dupuis all other injured players look to be back at some point later in the season. The Duper thing seems like a real blow, given his age and type of game, but knowing him, he'll be back and he'll be Duper again. Read this story about Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis. This guy tore the ACL in the same leg three times, and is back and playing some of the best football of his career.

The question is whether the Pens will or won't make a trade of one of the wingers on expiring contracts. If so, who might that be? Don't forget Gaborik and Callahan are both pending UFAs as well.

Is it too early to start predicting the MVP race? Kane, Crosby, Getzlaf, and Ovechkin are separating themselves from the rest. Crosby might have the edge because he's keeping the Pens up top with half the team on the IR. Patrick Kane, though, could just be the greatest show on ice right now, with 23 points so far in December. He's definitely found another level of his game.

The Three Rivers Classic day 2 is on the books and here is the recap from the PensNation.

World Junior Championships are in full swing. Team USA is looking excellent right now, having just earned its third straight win (8-0 against Germany) in the quest to repeat as champions. Russia's goal differential after 2 games is 18-1, and while they look like they're flying out there, they haven't played any of the top teams yet. Next match-up in round robin will be USA vs. Canada, who lost to the Czechs yesterday in a shootout. Follow the tournament here.

Don't forget earlier game time today: 6 pm EST! Let's go Pens!