The Blue Jackets are fourth in the Metropolitan Division with 10 points, eight behind the first-place Penguins. Columbus will have a chance to cut into that lead during the home-and-home set.
Forward Brandon Dubinsky said the Blue Jackets will need to come out strong Friday to set themselves up for the rematch Saturday in Columbus.
"You have to make it a hard game," Dubinsky said. "You have to come out, be ready to compete right from the get-go. We know these guys come hard at home. They play with speed. They generate a lot of speed through the neutral zone and they got some top-end guys.
"We have to find a way to stay disciplined, stay out of the box and be ready to play a physical and hard game."
Pittsburgh native R.J. Umberger will play his first game in his hometown since a 4-2 Columbus loss to the Penguins on Feb. 26, 2012. The Columbus forward is glad to return to Pittsburgh but said he'll only be truly satisfied if he comes away with a win.
"It's fun. I've been away for quite a bit, haven't been here often," Umberger said. "It's a critical time this early in the season. They've established themselves as still being an elite team and we're trying to catch them.
"It seems like our division is up for grabs right now and we're trying to get in that top-three spot. So these are crucial [games] for us to establish what type of team we are."
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby will play against Columbus for the first time since a 7-2 Pittsburgh win Dec. 4, 2010. Crosby scored two goals in that game and will attempt to pick up where he left off almost three years ago.
"It's been a while," Crosby said. "I'm pretty familiar with the way they play but I don't think you know until you go out there and play against them."
Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, last season's Vezina Trophy winner, will start at Consol Energy Center. Bobrovsky has gone 5-1-0 with a 2.67 goals-against average in his career against the Penguins in Pittsburgh.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said he is familiar with Bobrovsky's success in Consol Energy Center. The Columbus goaltender started his NHL career as a rival in the old Atlantic Division as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers. Bobrovsky made his NHL debut at the building, making 29 saves in a 3-2 Flyers victory Oct. 7, 2010.
"We are aware of his success in this building," Bylsma said. "I think playing against the Penguins in this building put him on the map in some regards."
Pittsburgh did not participate in line rushes for the second consecutive game-day skate.
Here are the projected lineups for Columbus and Pittsburgh:
Scratched: Deryk Engelland