Who: Columbus Blue Jackets (32-28-3, 67 points, 5th place Metropolitan Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (38-16-9, 85 points, 3rd place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh (ATTSN-PT) locally in the Western PA viewing area, Bally Sports Ohio (BSOH), ESPN+
Opponent Track: It’s been up and down lately for the Jackets. They lost four straight games (0-2-2) from March 4th-10th but then responded with a three-game winning streak from March 11th-16th. Any faint hopes Columbus had to close the gap with the fourth placed Washington Capitals were dashed in a resounding 7-2 Washington win last Thursday, but the Jackets still bounced-back with a 5-4 win in their last game against St. Louis on Saturday.
Pens Path Ahead: Time for another back-to-back set of games, the Pens are right back in action tomorrow night against the Sabres up in Buffalo. The Pens will stay on the road against another Empire State team when they see the Rangers in Manhattan on Friday night before returning back to PPG Paints Arena to meet the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.
Hidden Stat: Pittsburgh is 11-4-2 against Metropolitan Division opponents this season (h/t Pens PR).
Hidden Stat II: This is ninth out of ten sets of back-to-back games for Pittsburgh this season. So far, the Pens are 10-3-3 overall in b-2-b’s (6-1-1 on the first game; 4-2-2 for the second contest).
Season Series: Tonight marks the third of four PIT/CBJ games. The Pens took Rounds 1 and 2, both in Columbus with a 5-2 Pittsburgh victory back on January 21st followed by a 3-2 Pens win on February 27th. The final PIT/CBJ game will also be the final game of the regular season on Saturday April 29th, also in Pittsburgh.
SBN Counterpart Blog: Check out Jackets Cannon for all the latest on the Blue Jackets.
—Merzlikins suffered a minor injury on Saturday night and was not able to practice yesterday with his teammates. Looking like the goaltending duties for the Jackets will be on Korpisalo tonight. That could and should be a boost to the Pens, Korpisalo has been one of the lowest performing goalies in the entire league this season.
Monday Practice Lines
Gustav Nyquist - Jack Roslovic - Patrik Laine
Jakub Voracek - Cole Sillinger - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Brendan Gaunce - Justin Danforth - Yegor Chinakhov
Eric Robinson - Sean Kuraly - Emil Bemstrom
Zach Werenski / Andrew Peeke
Vladislav Gavrikov / Jake Bean
Gabriel Carlsson / Dean Kukan
Goalies: Joonas Korpisalo and J.F. Berube
Scratches: Elvis Merzlikins (injured), Gavin Bayreuther
IR: Boone Jenner, Alex Texier, Dannil Tarasov, Adam Boqvist
—Columbus only made one move yesterday, shipping out forward and impending free agent Max Domi to Carolina for a young defensive prospect who was drafted in the third round last season. Not a very big return there.
—Bjorkstrand is the emerging player to watch, and the hottest Jacket. In the last month (14 games), Bjorkstrand has 15 points (7G+8A) to tie Patrik Laine for the team-lead in this stretch. Laine is always a player who can run super hot or super cold, and for the last two months he has been red hot. Overall, Laine has a four-game point streak (3G+3A) and has recorded five of those points in the last three games.
Advanced stats matchup
Columbus is not a bad team offensively by any means, they have the ability and an impressive track record this season at scoring goals.
However, when they don’t have the puck they are one of the worst teams in the entire NHL this season, if not the worst. First year coach Brad Larsen really has to figure out how to get his team to clamp down, this team has shed a lot of it’s John Tortorella structure and discipline and become very wide-open but have bled chances and goals against.
All things considered, it’s probably a fortunate thing that CBJ is slightly above .500. They have a lot of work to do in order to truly turn their team around and be a legitimate contender to make it to the playoffs again.
And now for the Pens..
Projected Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Evan Rodrigues
Rickard Rakell - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Danton Heinen - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Brian Boyle - Teddy Blueger - Radim Zohorna
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Mike Matheson / John Marino
Marcus Pettersson / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Tristan Jarry (Casey DeSmith)
Scratches: Mark Friedman, Brock McGinn (week-to-week, upper body)
IR: Jason Zucker (week-to-week, core surgery), Nathan Beaulieu
—Fare thee well, Dominik Simon and Zach Aston-Reese, both traded to Anaheim yesterday. The team was “hopeful” and expecting Rackell to be able and join up with them for this game. Just a guess but this has classic “Malkin winger with 12-14ish minutes” type of game for him to jump in without being asked a ton.
—Zohorna was temporarily demoted to the AHL in a paper move yesterday, without him the team only has 11 healthy forwards, so expect him to be officially added to the NHL roster at some point today. Being on the AHL roster yesterday also keeps Zohorna eligible to play in that league during the playoffs, giving a practical reason for why he was assigned there.
PPG Paints Arena has been a house of horrors for the Blue Jackets, where they have dropped nine straight games to the Pens. It’s one of the league’s longest active streaks in the same venue. From the Pens’ PR department:
The Penguins enter tonight’s game with wins in nine-consecutive home games against the Blue Jackets dating back to Dec. 21, 2015. In that span, Pittsburgh has outscored Columbus by a 34-16 margin and have pitched shutouts in two of the last three home games versus them.
Pittsburgh’s nine-straight wins at home versus Columbus is tied for the sixth-longest active home winning streak versus one team:
Franchise Opponent Streak Start Date
Philadelphia Chicago 16 Mar. 31, 1998
Dallas Arizona 14 Mar. 20, 2012
Pittsburgh Ottawa 10 Dec. 6, 2014
Chicago Buffalo 10 Jan. 14, 2009
NY Islanders Buffalo 10 Dec. 23, 2016
Pittsburgh Columbus 9 Dec. 21, 2015
Six Teams N/A 9 N/A
Evgeni Malkin has been held off the scoresheet just twice in 14 career home games against the Blue Jackets, where he’s recorded 18 points (8G-18A). Overall, he has points in 12 of his last 13 games versus Columbus (9G-8A).
Milestone and streak watch
- Jake Guentzel is one goal away from the second 30-goal campaign of his career; Bryan Rust is three points away from his second 50-point season.
- Evgeni Malkin is four goals away from tying Jaromir Jagr (439) for third place on the Penguins’ all-time scoring leaderboard.
- Sidney Crosby recorded his 87th career multi-goal game by scoring twice against Arizona on Saturday.
- That multi-goal game also now means Crosby has scored multiple goals in the same game against 29 NHL teams, tying a who’s who of goal scorers for most in NHL history (Hossa, Iginla, Robitaille, Ovechkin). The only teams Sid hasn’t scored twice in the same game against are the NHL’s two newest (Seattle, Vegas) and, of course, Pittsburgh.
- Crosby has points in 10 straight home games (5G+10A).
- Mike Matheson will be playing his 100th game in a Pens jersey tonight.