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Pens Points: Back in Action

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Penguins head to Columbus for showdown with Blue Jackets in potential playoff preview. Kessel return to practice; Brassard and Rowney remain sidelined. Crosby and Co. expect a playoff atmosphere tonight. Sullivan to go with Ruhwedel over Hunwick for biggest game of the season.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Pittsburgh Penguins at Columbus Blue Jackets Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

There is a lot on the line tonight at Nationwide Arena where the Penguins will face-off against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a potential first round preview. The two teams are currently tied in standings so home ice could be decided tonight. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 PM and will be broadcast on AT&T Sports Network.

Prepare for tonight’s big contest with this Thursday edition of Pens Points...

It sure looks like Phil Kessel will add to his ironman streak on Thursday if there was ever any doubt he wouldn’t play in the first place. Kessel returned to practice on Wednesday but Derick Brassard and Carter Rowney remained out with no update on their condition. [Trib Live]

With a playoff spot in the bag, the only waiting left for the Penguins is to see who their first round opponent will be. Much like last year, it appears the Columbus Blue Jackets will be the first hurdle for the Pens on their road to the Stanley Cup. [Pensburgh]

Tonight’s game carries major playoff implications for both the Penguins and the Blue Jackets. Columbus has yet to clinch a playoff spot and home ice is still up for grabs for both teams in what is shaping up to be a first round matchup. Sidney Crosby expects a playoff-like atmosphere inside of Nationwide Arena for the contest. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

With his game tying goal on Tuesday night, Blue Jackets’ forward Artemi Panarin set a new franchise record for points in a season with 80 (For perspective on how the NHL has changed, that number would be good for 71st all-time in Penguins’ history). Slowing down Panarin will be the first order of business for the Pens tonight and in any potential playoff matchup. [Trib Live]

Tonight’s game will also put the Penguins up against former teammate Ian Cole for the first time since he was traded away as part of the Brassard deal. Cole has found memories of his time in Pittsburgh but can’t wait to do battle against his old team. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

With home ice advantage likely on the line tonight, head coach Mike Sullivan will want to ice his best lineup to get the win and apparently that lineup includes Chad Ruhwedel as the sixth defenseman over Matt Hunwick. [Pittsburgh Hockey Now]

A season long promotion being run by the Pens will come to an end on Friday when the team announces the winners of the “Pens Passport” contest. Winners receive tickets to every Penguins game in 2018-2019 (home and away) along with airfare, hotel, and $100,000 in cash. [Penguins]

News and notes from around the NHL...

In some shocking news, the Nashville Predators and their fans are very angry about a goal call not going their way. We can all hope they don’t dwell on this call as long as they did on the call from Game 6 last season. [New York Post]

With the season winding down and it becoming clear which teams will not qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs rosters for the IIHF World Championships are beginning to take shape and as expected, Team Canada will bring a lot of talent to Denmark. [Sporting News]

With their loss to the Ottawa Senators last night, the Buffalo Sabres officially clinched 31st place and will have the best odds of winning the top overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft at 18.5%. The lottery will be held on Saturday, April 28th. [NBC Sports]