GAME 57: BLUE JACKETS VS. PENGUINS
NATIONWIDE ARENA, 7 P.M.
TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO / FOX SPORTS GO
RADIO: 97.1 & BLUEJACKETS.COM
The Blue Jackets (36-15-5) welcome a divisional opponent in Pittsburgh to Nationwide Arena on Friday. It will be the third of four regular season games the two teams will play against each other this year.
These two teams are neck and neck in the race to the top of the Metro Division (the Washington Capitals currently hold the lead) and know each other well. While there has been a lot of discussion about the Jackets finding a way to be "more emotionally involved" in games, there's little doubt these two teams will struggle in that area Friday night.
Here are five things to watch for in the game:
- Third period "swagger"
Columbus is a team that was known for strong third periods at the start of the season, but recent outings - including Wednesday's 5-2 win over Toronto - have shown a more cautious Jackets team in the final frame. Head coach John Tortorella wants to see this team "continue to make plays, continue to generate offense, and have the mindset of staying aggressive" throughout the third, with or without a lead.
- Capitalize on the back to back
Friday's game marks the second of three consecutive games where the Jackets will welcome a team playing on the tail end of a back to back (Pittsburgh plays Winnipeg Thursday). Columbus is a team that doesn't want two games in a row to be a reason for lesser play, but will definitely look to use it to their advantage when Pittsburgh comes to town.
- Fresh lines
The forward lines were changed around for Wednesday's game after Scott Hartnell was lost to injury, and the results in the game were positive. 11 different Jackets got on the scoresheet and a different player scored each of the five Columbus goals, including recently recalled Oliver Bjorkstrand. When Hartnell is healthy, Tortorella said he'll return to the lineup, but some "new look" lines in the interim have provided an offensive jolt.
- Plugged in power play
The Blue Jackets had their first power play goal since Jan. 7 in the win over the Maple Leafs. It energized the team, and allowed the special teams units to relax a bit after ending the scoring drought. The plan is to keep the offense coming with the man advantage. "Just to get one might give us more confidence going into the weekend," Zach Werenski said.
- Finish the right way
With just two games remaining until the team's bye week, the group wants to finish strong heading into some time off. "We want to stay on top of ourselves and keep our concentration," Tortorella said, explaining his choice of an optional team skate Thursday. "I want all the energy (we have) in these two games."
PROJECTED CBJ LINEUP: