Who: Columbus Blue Jackets (12-14-4, 28 points, 7th place Metropolitan Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (17-10-4, 38 points, 4th place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh viewing area, Fox Sports Ohio, ESPN+
Opponent Track: The Jackets broke a four-game losing streak in their last game, winning 5-2 in Washington on Tuesday. CBJ is on the third game of a four game road trip, they head to Ottawa for a Saturday afternoon game after tonight to wrap it up.
Pens path ahead: The Pens get Los Angeles on Saturday at home before prepping to fly out west next week with a three game road trip of their own that starts next Tuesday in Calgary.
Season Series: Columbus won 5-2 against the Pens a couple weeks ago on Nov 29th in Ohio. Pittsburgh won 7-2 way back on October 5th. After tonight there is only one more PIT/CBJ game which will be March 12th in Columbus.
Recent History: Pittsburgh has dominated this matchup, winning eight straight games vs. CBJ in the friendly confines of PPG Paints Arena. Overall going back to February 2017 the Pens are 10-3-1 in the last 14 regular season games in this series.
SBN Team Counterpart: Beware of that damn cannon over at Jackets Cannon who will be detailing everything from the Columbus perspective for this game.
Tale of the Tape
—The Jackets very much look like a team whose best two forwards departed for absolutely no return this summer, because that’s what happened. They have been dreadful at shooting the puck (though they do it a lot, at least!) and can’t score. Had one of Artemi Panarin or Matt Duchene elected to stay instead of leave via free agency, Columbus has a good enough process to probably be right there with PIT/CAR/PHI/NYR in the playoff picture. Instead, they’re on the outs.
—In the past two weeks since the last PIT/CBJ game, Columbus’ Corsi has gone from sub-50% and 20th place in the league up to 50.76% and 12th in the league, suggesting CBJ is doing a bit better as of late in carrying play and keeping the puck out of their own end, even if the wins haven’t really been there.
Player Stats at a Glance
—Boone Jenner and Josh Anderson are two guys that have been pretty cold and under expectations for producing points so far this season.
—Cam Atkinson has a personal xG of scoring 13 goals this year, but only 7 actual goals. That makes him a strong candidate to probably produce more in the second half of this season than he has been so far, if he keeps getting the chances.
Possible Lines (based on Tuesday game)
Sonny Milano - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Nick Foligno - Boone Jenner - Josh Anderson
Gustav Nyquist - Alexandre Texier - Cam Atkinson
Alexander Wennberg - Riley Nash - Eric Robinson
Dean Kukan / Seth Jones
Ryan Murray / David Savard
Vladislav Gavrikov / Andrew Peeke
Expected scratches: Emil Bemstrom (dislocated rib, out 6-8 weeks), Scott Harrington
Injured reserve: Zach Werenski, Brandon Dubinsky, Markus Nutivaara, Kole Sherwood
—Werenski skated before practice yesterday but doesn’t seem ready quite yet to return, which is a nice benefit from the Pens’ perspective to not have to see him in the lineup tonight.
—Texier has recently moved to center and is getting some work there. He’s an interesting young, skilled player so we’ll see how that goes. This also seems to be a bit of a shot at Wennberg, who has no goals and only 4 assists in the last 19 games and has lost his place on the club, only playing now due to the injury to Bemstrom.
And now for the Pens..
Potential Lines (based on Wednesday practice)
Jake Guentzel - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Dominik Kahun- Jared McCann - Zach Aston-Reese
Alex Galchenyuk - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Dominik Simon- Sam Lafferty - Stefan Noesen
John Marino / Kris Letang
Jack Johnson /Justin Schultz
Marcus Pettersson/ Chad Ruhwedel
Expected scratches: Juuso Riikola (healthy)
Injured Reserve: Sidney Crosby (core muscle surgery), Nick Bjugstad (core muscle surgery), Patric Hornqvist (lower body injury), Brian Dumoulin (ankle surgery)
—Other than the top line, the rest of the lineup gets a little shakeup as the team tries to move pieces around and find some lightning in a bottle production.
From the Pens:
Evgeni Malkin currently sits one goal shy of 400 in his career. He’s looking to join Mario Lemieux (690), Sidney Crosby (451) and Jaromir Jagr (439) as the only players in franchise history to score 400 goals. Malkin has led Pittsburgh in goals five times during his first 13 seasons with Pittsburgh. Only Lemieux (10 times) and Crosby (8 times) have led the Penguins in goals in a season more times.
Malkin is also looking to become the eighth active player to score 400 goals:
Alex Ovechkin 679
Patrick Marleau 557
Sidney Crosby 451
Ilya Kovalchuk 436
Eric Staal 425
Joe Thornton 413
Steven Stamkos 404
Evgeni Malkin 399