Who: Columbus Blue Jackets (37-37-7, 81 points, 6th place Metropolitan Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (45-25-11, 101 points, 3rd place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. Eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Western PA area, Bally Sports Ohio out the next state over, ESPN+
Opponent Track: The Blue Jackets end their season tonight in Pittsburgh after two games with the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier this week. CBJ fell 4-1 on Tuesday in Tampa and then the Blue Jackets paid Tampa back with a 5-2 win last night.
Pens Path Ahead: This is Game 82 and the end of the regular season. The Pens are off to the first round of the playoffs, where they will start on the road next week for Games 1 and 2.
Season Series: Pittsburgh will be looking for a clean sweep after winning all three earlier PIT/CBJ games this season. The Pens took a 5-1 victory on March 22nd in the last meeting. Pittsburgh also won 3-2 on February 27th. And in the first game of the season, Pittsburgh won that 5-2 on January 21st.
Hidden Stat: The Penguins have won 10-straight games against the Blue Jackets at PPG Paints Arena, dating back to Dec. 21, 2015.
SBN Counterpart Blog: Jackets Cannon
Tuesday Game Lines
Gustav Nyquist - Jack Roslovic - Jakub Voracek
Yegor Chinakov - Cole Sillinger - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Eric Robinson - Justin Danforth - Emil Bemstrom
Kent Johnson - Brendan Gaunce - Carson Meyer
Zach Werenski / Andrew Peeke
Vladislav Gavrikov / Nick Blankenburg
Dean Kukan / Jake Bean
Goalies: Elvis Merzlikins (J.F Berube)
Scratches: Sean Kuraly, Patrik Laine (injury), Adam Boqvist, Gavin Bayreuther, Gabriel Carlsson
IR: Boone Jenner, Alexandre Texier, Daniil Tarasov
—If you read some of this lineup and said “...who?”, well let’s just say you’re not alone. Columbus has turned to a very young group of players down the stretch. They’re highlighted by young Kent Johnson, 19, who was the first round pick in 2021 (fifth overall) and spent his season with the stacked University of Michigan
Advanced stats matchup
—The Blue Jackets have endured a tough year. Free of John Tortarella, their defensive structure pretty much collapsed in all categories. And the offense wasn’t too much better. This is a team that has a long way to go to improve to get back to playoff contention
And now for the Pens..
Friday Practice Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Rickard Rakell
Heinen- Malkin – Rakell McGinn- Carter – Kapanen Boyle – Blueger – Rodrigues
Danton Heinen - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Brock McGinn - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Brian Boyle - Teddy Blueger - Evan Rodrigues
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / John Marino
Mike Matheson / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Casey DeSmith and Louis Domingue
Scratches: Mark Friedman, Tristan Jarry (week-to-week), Nathan Beaulieu (LTIR), Jason Zucker (injury)
—Jason Zucker was absent from practice on Thursday, and officially still being “evaluated” which doesn’t spell well for today. Fortunately, the Pens have 12 other healthy forwards, so Brian Boyle can get back in.
With the Capitals losing last night, the Pens remain one point ahead with both teams having one last game. Washington plays the New York Rangers tonight, and the Rangers have absolutely nothing to play for. Then again, the Islanders have nothing to play for but they beat the Caps two times this week.
If the Pens win or lose in OT tonight, or both Pittsburgh and Washington lose, they will clinch third place tonight and will face the Rangers in the first round.
If Caps win and the Pens lose in regulation to Columbus, Pittsburgh will draw the Florida Panthers for the playoffs.