PENGUINS (46-22-5) at BLUE JACKETS (37-29-6)
TV: ROOT, FS-O
Last 10: Pittsburgh 4-5-1; Columbus 5-4-1
Season series: The Pittsburgh Penguins have won all four games against the Columbus Blue Jackets, outscoring them 14-6. Penguins forward James Neal had five points (a hat trick, two assists) in the one game he played against the Blue Jackets, on Dec. 29.
Big story: Columbus will look to take advantage of a Pittsburgh team that traveled after losing at home to the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 Thursday.
"This is three in four for them, so we need to use our rest here, our two days off, and hopefully come in with some good energy," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards told the Columbus Dispatch on Thursday. "They should be more fatigued than us. We need to invest to play the third period by doing the right things the first two periods and making it hard on them."
Columbus is in a four-team tie for the two Eastern Conference wild cards into the Stanley Cup Playoffs and holds at least one game in hand on the Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals.
Penguins: Pittsburgh on Thursday failed to get a point that would have clinched its spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Penguins have lost three in a row.
"It's tough; we've played well, I thought, the last three games," goaltender Jeff Zatkoff told Root Sports. "We've had chances to win and it just seems like that one bounce is going the opposite way right now, but we just have to keep going. We've got nine games left, I think, here before the playoffs start, so just kind of right the ship here before we get going into playoffs."
The Penguins were 0-for-7 on the power play against the Kings, who were 1-for-3 and scored another goal right after a penalty expired. Pittsburgh is 5-for-15 on the power play against Columbus this season and has killed all 10 shorthanded situations.
"A couple more goals against [our penalty kill], which is a little frustrating; we're having a little tough time right now," forward Brandon Sutter said. "... We just have to keep battling, stay with what we're doing and try not to get too frustrated."
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will start after Zatkoff made 29 saves Thursday.
Blue Jackets: Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (illness) is unable to start Friday, breaking a streak of 19 straight games.
"I feel a little bit better," Bobrovsky said Friday. "I feel weakness. My throat's sore. I have low energy. We decided between the doctors and coaches not to play this game."
Bobrovsky attempted to play Tuesday against the Red Wings but lasted one period. Curtis McElhinney finished the 4-2 victory.
McElhinney is 9-9-1 in 25 games this season with a 2.75 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage. He has played four times against Pittsburgh this season with three starts, posting a 0-3-0 record, 2.44 goals-against average and .900 save percentage.
"Curtis has done an outstanding job for us all season long," left wing Nick Foligno said. "We have full confidence in our goaltending. It comes down to what we do in front of them that matters most."
Who's hot: Penguins center Sidney Crosby has eight points in his past six games and leads the NHL with 96. Forward Taylor Pyatt has a goal in two straight games to give him four in 48 games this season. … Blue Jackets forward Ryan Johansen had two goals Tuesday to give him a career-best 29 this season. Defenseman James Wisniewski had three assists. McElhinney stopped 22 of 23 shots.
Injury report: Penguins forward Marcel Goc (foot) is expected to miss three weeks. Forward Beau Bennett (wrist) returned from a conditioning assignment and will play Friday. Forwards Evgeni Malkin (foot), Joe Vitale (upper body), Chris Conner (hand surgery) and Pascal Dupuis (right knee surgery), defensemen Kris Letang (stroke) and Paul Martin (broken hand), and goalie Tomas Vokoun (blood clot, hip) are out. Martin skated Thursday. … Blue Jackets forward Nathan Horton (maintenance) did not practice Thursday. Defenseman Ryan Murray (knee) has skated on his own the past three days, the Dispatch reported, but he is not expected back before the postseason.
NHL.com Correspondent Craig Merz contributed to this report
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