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Posted On Friday, 04.25.2014 / 3:22 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins-Blue Jackets series blog

Penguins goalie Fleury moves on from Game 4

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said he made the wrong play, but he will not allow that to affect him moving forward in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Leading 3-2 with less than 30 seconds remaining in Game 4 on Wednesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Fleury left the net with a puck careening around the end boards. The puck hopped over Fleury's stick, which led to him scrambling to stop a shot from Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky that tied the game 3-3. Nick Foligno scored a long-distance goal 2:45 into overtime to give Columbus the win and tie the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round series 2-2.

Dubinsky's late goal left Fleury face down in his crease.

Looking back on the play, Fleury said he should have remained in net, an opinion shared by Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. But at the time he thought he could make a play that would help clear the puck from Pittsburgh's zone and seal a victory.

"I think it's easy after, when you watch the video in slow motion. It's the wrong play when the puck goes in the net," Fleury said. "But as it happened, the puck was coming slow. I read I could stop it and it might be good to pick it up and get the puck out of the zone pretty quick. So that's why I went. The puck took a bad bounce and that's it."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.24.2014 / 3:15 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins-Blue Jackets series blog

Bylsma stresses Penguins must raise compete level

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins could have swept the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference First Round. The Blue Jackets could have swept the Penguins.

Instead, their best-of-7 series is tied 2-2, which has left Penguins coach Dan Bylsma critical of Pittsburgh's effort after surrendering a three-goal lead in its 4-3 overtime loss in Game 4 on Wednesday.

"I think the work and compete and battle level has probably been the most troubling thing from our team," Bylsma said at his Thursday press conference. "In Game 3, after getting down two goals for 50, 55 minutes of that game, it wasn't perfect, but we were the desperate team. We took the game to them. Last night, we get up three goals in the game and they were the team that worked and competed and outbattled us for most of the duration of the game."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.24.2014 / 2:28 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins-Blue Jackets series blog

Bylsma expects Penguins' Fleury to atone for mistake

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made a mistake.

With less than 30 seconds remaining in regulation and the Penguins up 3-2 Wednesday, Fleury left his crease in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He attempted to retrieve a puck riding the boards behind the net, but it hopped over his stick and was passed to Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky.

Dubinsky hit the open net. Then 2:49 into overtime, forward Nick Foligno wristed a shot directly at Fleury. That one got through as well.

"He was our best player in the game last night and unfortunately a mistake with the bouncing puck there behind the net cost us in the last 30 seconds of the game," Bylsma said Thursday. "Typically, the rule of thumb is pucks on the glass, you stay in net. Pucks on the dasher, you have a truer read on the play. Given the time of the game, the puck gets rimmed in, the play is to stay in the net and not go out and attempt a play on the puck."

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Posted On Sunday, 04.20.2014 / 1:50 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins-Blue Jackets series blog

Penguins look to improve on special teams in Game 3

PITTSBURGH -- What was once the Pittsburgh Penguins' primary strength has turned into a weakness.

After coming back from a two-goal deficit to win Game 1 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Penguins surrendered a two-goal lead in their 4-3 double-overtime loss in Game 2 on Saturday. Special teams were a catalyst for Columbus in building a lead early Game 1 and evaporating Pittsburgh's lead in Game 2.

Five of the Blue Jackets' seven goals in the series have been scored via their special teams, including one shorthanded goal in each game. Columbus has cracked Pittsburgh's once-stellar power-play and penalty-killing units, which simultaneously topped the NHL rankings at one point during the regular season.

The Blue Jackets have been aggressive when down a man, leading to several shorthanded scoring opportunities. After Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert's shorthanded goal in the second period of Game 2, the Penguins allowed two more shorthanded chances during the same power play, including one off a 2-on-1.

"We need to take advantage of their aggressiveness," Penguins forward Chris Kunitz said. "We have to come in and possess the puck. If they're over-pursuing, somebody can make one play and put pucks to the net and score goals. When they do that, they second-guess themselves and get in between, and it really opens up the ice.

"So, puck possession, but also making that first play where they're being overaggressive and get caught in between, and we're going to have a lot of time to be able to shoot it."


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Posted On Saturday, 04.19.2014 / 1:12 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins-Blue Jackets series blog

Penguins preach awareness of Umberger around net

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins expect a physical game with forward RJ Umberger returning to the Columbus Blue Jackets lineup.

After missing five games due to an upper-body injury, Umberger will play against his hometown team in Game 2 of the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round series against Pittsburgh on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-O, ROOT). Umberger said he is excited to return in the Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center.

The feeling wasn't mutual in the Penguins locker room. They expect Umberger to attempt to own the crease in front of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and have prepared for his addition to bolster the Blue Jackets' performance.

"He's a big guy who brings physical play to their lineup," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "He's good in front of the net. He can score goals. He's a veteran guy who has a lot of experience, so I would expect [Columbus] to get a boost from that."

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Posted On Saturday, 04.19.2014 / 12:42 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins-Blue Jackets series blog

Umberger returns for Blue Jackets; Foligno not ready

PITTSBURGH -- Columbus Blue Jackets forward RJ Umberger will return Saturday, and forward Nick Foligno remains sidelined for at least one more game.

Umberger will play in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-O, ROOT).

Umberger missed the past five games, including the opener of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with an upper-body injury.

"It's definitely hard to watch, especially a playoff game in my hometown," Umberger said. "You want to be out there as much as you can, helping your guys and your team. It was hard, but I'm excited to be back tonight."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.17.2014 / 12:56 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins-Blue Jackets series blog

Penguins prepared to adjust lines to create matchups

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins lines could remain flexible throughout their Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference First Round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Game 2 will take place at Consol Energy Center on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-O, ROOT).

Pittsburgh made several line adjustments during its 4-3 win in Game 1 Wednesday, primarily to the wings on three of its lines. The Penguins swapped forwards Tanner Glass, who began the game as the third-line left wing, and Brian Gibbons under certain circumstances.

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.16.2014 / 1:15 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins-Blue Jackets series blog

Malkin, Vitale likely to play Game 1 for Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- All indications point toward the Pittsburgh Penguins having their healthiest lineup in several months entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Forwards Evgeni Malkin (foot) and Joe Vitale (mid body) skated for the second consecutive day Wednesday morning. Neither has been officially announced as part of Pittsburgh's lineup for Game 1 against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference First Round on Wednesday at Consol Energy Center (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC), but their returns are likely.

Malkin worked in his normal spot as the second-line center, while Vitale centered the fourth line between forwards Brian Gibbons and Craig Adams.

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.15.2014 / 1:59 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Penguins-Blue Jackets series blog

Penguins pave way for returns with demotions to AHL

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins reassigned three players to the American Hockey League Tuesday to seemingly make room for players returning from injury.

Defenseman Simon Despres and forwards Chuck Kobasew and Harry Zolnierczyk were reassigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League prior to Game 1 of Pittsburgh’s first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday at Consol Energy Center (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, FS-O, ROOT).

The departures would allow for the return of forwards Evgeni Malkin and Joe Vitale.

“Obviously, it’s been a long year with a lot of different guys,” Vitale said. “But it’s a good feeling, obviously to see [Malkin] out there and [defenseman Paul Martin] and just see those faces and Kris [Letang]. Just to see those faces and the energy they bring, the energy on the ice is kind of contagious throughout the whole locker room, so it’s something special and we’re obviously thankful to have those guys back.”

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Posted On Sunday, 04.13.2014 / 12:49 PM

By Wes Crosby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Injured Penguins skate, but questionable for Game 1

PITTSBURGH -- Three injured players participated in the Pittsburgh Penguins' Sunday morning skate, but did not technically rejoin practice.

Forwards Evgeni Malkin, Joe Vitale and Chris Conner skated with the Penguins in an optional skate before their game against the Ottawa Senators. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said they chose to take the option to skate, but should not be considered to have rejoined Pittsburgh at practice.

Malkin, Vitale and Conner will not play in Pittsburgh's regular-season finale and Bylsma could not confirm if they would be healthy to play in Game 1 of the Penguins' first round Stanley Cup Playoffs series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"I don't have an expectation, nor do I have a definitive answer on what players will be available for Game 1," Bylsma said.

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