Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (3-0-1, 1st place Metropolitan Division) @ Columbus Blue Jackets (2-3-0, 8th place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, ESPN+ elsewhere (Bally Sports Ohio for the away team broadcast)
Opponent Track: After starting out the season with three straight regulation losses, during which their porous defense allowed 14 goals against, the Blue Jackets recovered to earn their first two victories of 2022-23 in dramatic fashion at home.
After winning a back-and-forth battle with the victory-less Canucks in overtime on Tuesday, the Jackets turned a 3-1 third-period deficit to the Predators into a 5-3 victory on Thursday with a game-winning goal that came with fewer than two minutes left in regulation.
Pens Path Ahead: This is the first contest of a five-game tour through the Western conference, one of the longest road trips of the season. The team will stop by Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Seattle before coming home, so Pens fans should enjoy the final 7pm start time of October and start getting ready for some late nights ahead.
Season Series: Penguins will see the Blue Jackets again when they arrive at PPG Paints Arena on December 6. Last season, the Penguins swept Columbus in the season series, 4-0.
Getting to know the Blue Jackets
SB Nation counterpart: The Cannon
Gustav Nyquist - Boone Jenner - Johnny Gaudreau
Kent Johnson - Cole Sillinger - Jakub Voracek
Yegor Chinakhov - Jack Roslovic - Justin Danforth
Eric Robinson - Sean Kuraly - Mathieu Olivier
Zach Werenski - Nick Blankenburg
Vladislav Gavrikov - Andrew Peeke
Jake Bean - Erik Gudbranson
Goalies: Elvis Merzlikins or Daniil Tarasov
Scratches: Liam Foudy (injury), Adam Boqvist
IR: Alexandre Texier (out for the season), Patrik Laine (elbow), Joonas Korpisalo (recovering from hip surgery)
- It’s no coincidence that the Blue Jackets earning their first two wins of the season coincided with Johnny Gaudreau heating up. The winger, who has three goals in his last two games, is doing his best to remind fans why he was the most exciting pickup of 2022 free agency.
- The Blue Jackets are still waiting for regular backup Joonas Korpisalo to recover from hip surgery. In the meantime, Elvis Merzlikins is being backed by rookie Daniil Tarasov, who had just three NHL starts under his belt heading into this season.
Through two games, Tarasov has allowed nine goals and has yet to earn a win. He might be up on deck for another chance to claim his first NHL W today, as Merzlikins started both Tuesday’s and Thursday’s contests.
- This team is missing Patrik Laine, who scored 26 goals for them last season. After scoring the first goal of the Blue Jackets’ 2022-23 campaign, Laine sprained his elbow in Columbus’ season opener and will be on injured reserve for three to four weeks.
- The Blue Jackets found an unlikely hero during their comeback win against the Predators in Nick Blankenburg, the rookie defenseman who scored the game-winning goal with just 1:23 left on the clock. He may have had only seven NHL games under his belt heading into this season, but he’s looked shockingly dominant in his appearances for the Blue Jackets so far.
- Columbus’ bottom defense pairing— composed of former Penguin Erik Gudbranson, alongside Jake Bean— is a weak spot for the Blue Jackets. That’s something the Penguins might be able to exploit if they have to make do with a potentially limited forward lineup. More on that below...
And now for the Pens...
Potential Game Lines
Danton Heinen - Sidney Crosby - Rickard Rakell
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Brock McGinn - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Ryan Poehling - Josh Archibald
Brian Dumoulin - Kris Letang
Jeff Petry - Marcus Pettersson
P.O. Joseph - Jan Rutta
Goalies: Tristan Jarry (Casey DeSmith)
Scratches: Teddy Blueger (day-to-day injury), Chad Ruhwedel
- These projected lines are based on Friday’s practice, during which Jake Guentzel was missing, and Teddy Blueger was in a non-contact jersey.
- If Blueger, still listed as day-to-day, can play on Saturday, he would center the fourth line, with Poehling and Archibald flanking. If not, we are likely to see Chad Ruhwedel make his first appearance of the season as the Penguins’ extra defenseman. The offense would then have to make do with 11 forwards.
- Jake Guentzel’s status is similarly up in the air, as he recovers from an “upper-body injury,” also known as being smacked in the ear with friendly fire on Thursday. He will be traveling with the team on this road trip. If he doesn’t play Saturday, we could be watching a rare combination of Sidney Crosby and Danton Heinen.
Danton Heinen on his potential opportunity: "Obviously, I hope Jake's okay and comes back soon. But Sid and Raks are great players, obviously high-skilled guys that think the game at a real high level. So if it works out that way, it’ll be a lot of fun."— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) October 21, 2022
- We have our first production streak of the campaign— Malkin has yet to go a single outing without a point this season, and is sitting at 3-2—5 through four games.
- The Penguins are still looking for their first road win of the season. Will they finally earn it in Columbus?