POST GAME: The Jackets fired 39 shots at Marc-Andre Fleury, but the Penguins' netminder came up big in his team's 4-2 win. Get the full recap of the game by clicking HERE.
SECOND PERIOD ANALYSIS: The game started to get away from the Blue Jackets in the second period, and as they normally do, the Penguins pounced on mistakes. Columbus compounded its own problems by taking penalties, and the third goal (Letang's PPG) made it 3-0 and chased Sergei Bobrovsky from the net. Bobrovsky didn't have his best night - allowing three goals on 13 shots - but Pittsburgh's three-goal burst only required five shots. MacKenzie's goal got the Jackets on the board and they played better after it was 4-1, but it's going to require a monster effort in the third to make this a game again.
LISTEN: Derek MacKenzie's first goal of the season made it a 4-1 game in the second period. Hear the call by clicking HERE.
FIRST PERIOD ANALYSIS: If you're the Blue Jackets, the only thing you don't like about that first period is giving up a goal on the power play to Kunitz (and that only took six seconds). Columbus had the better of the zone time and the better chances in the first 20 minutes, and hold a 16-9 shot advantage that includes a handful of really good looks in front of Marc-Andre Fleury. The goaltender has been the story for the Penguins, stopping all 16 pucks thrown at him and has tracked it well in traffic. The Blue Jackets drew the Penguins into a couple of penalties and nearly cashed in on the power play - a unit that generated Columbus' best stretch of offense. Stay the course, keep grindin' away and the Blue Jackets will get rewarded.
UPDATE (4:15 PM): Blue Jackets center Derek MacKenzie, making his return to the lineup tonight, spoke to the media prior to tonight's game in Pittsburgh.
UPDATE (3:10 PM): A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE: From all corners of the globe, the Blue Jackets' fathers gathered in Columbus this week for a unique trip they'll never forget. Read that story HERE.
UPDATE (2:15 PM): Take a look at all the photos from the trip to Pittsburgh HERE.
UPDATE (1:45 PM): Pittsburgh native RJ Umberger was a popular guy in the Jackets' dressing room today. Hear what he had to say prior to tonight's game.
UPDATE (1:35 PM): Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards met with the media after today's morning skate to talk about tonight's game. Check it out here, courtesy of Jackets TV.
UPDATE (1:05 PM): FAMILIAR FOE FOR UMBERGER: RJ Umberger grew up not far from the CONSOL Energy Center, was a high school hockey legend in the area and began his NHL career in Philadelphia. He knows the Penguins well, and spoke about it after today's morning skate.
Read the story by clicking HERE.
THE DADS! Here's a cool pic of Mr. Wisniewski, Dubinsky, Atkinson and Johnson watching the morning skate:
TONIGHT'S LINES: Derek MacKenzie is a game-time decision (per Todd Richards), but if he can play, here are the expected lines for the Jackets...
Foligno - Anisimov - Gaborik
Letestu - Dubinsky - Atkinson
Comeau - Johansen - Umberger
Chaput - MacKenzie - Boll
Tyutin - Prout
Murray - Wisniewski
Johnson - Savard
Bobrovsky in goal.
GROUP PHOTO! The players and their dads got together for a group photo prior to today's morning skate. Watch for the final "serious" version soon...
INFOGRAPH: Ever wondered how much the cities of Columbus and Pittsburgh have in common? Or the key differences between them? Then you'll love today's infographic...click HERE to view it.
MURRAY'S TAKE: Rob talked to rookie defenseman Ryan Murray about playing the high-flying Penguins for the first time, and what expects from his first career game at CONSOL Energy Center. Here are some of his comments:
On the Penguins: "They have a great team, and obviously, one of the best teams in the league and they have been for a while. We have to stick to our game plan against them, be quick to pucks and move it out of our end quick. We can't give them any opportunities because they have a great power play."
On his first game against a team that could soon become their rival: "I remember playing in junior (with Everett in the WHL), our division had one less team than the others so we had to play our division teams even more. We played some teams 10 times in one season so you really start to form a rivalry with them, and it's mostly from just seeing them so often. I'm excited (about tonight's game) and you try to treat it as just another game but it's going to be fun."
PHOTO: Rookie Boone Jenner - who will not play tonight in Pittsburgh - enjoying a nice Friday morning breakfast with James Wisniewski and his dad.
UPDATE: The Jackets and their dads have arrived at the rink!
UPDATE: The Blue Jackets are scheduled for their morning skate at 11:30 a.m. at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Rob Mixer from BlueJackets.com is on-site and will bring you all the latest updates as they happen. We'll have complete coverage right here at Game Day Central throughout the day, as well as video interviews from Jackets TV.
"Status quo" is probably the best way to describe the Blue Jackets' injury situation as they embark on this weekend's home-and-home series with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
PENGUINS 4 | BLUE JACKETS 2
Derek MacKenzie skated on his own on Wednesday as his teammates returned to full practice at Nationwide Arena, but coach Todd Richards was non-committal as to whether he would be available for this weekend's games. Boone Jenner, out with a leg injury sustained last week against Toronto, is still looking at a 10-day or more timetable for a return. If all holds as-is, the Blue Jackets are likely to have Michael Chaput in the lineup for a second straight game and Mark Letestu will hop up into the top six.
As for the goaltender, it appears likely that Sergei Bobrovsky will start Friday's game at CONSOL Energy Center. Depending on how the game goes, Richards said Bobrovsky could also start Saturday in Columbus. With two days off until their next game (Tuesday at home against Ottawa), the Blue Jackets aren't concerned about Bobrovsky's workload if he plays both games against the Penguins.
Is it a benefit or a burden to have four days off between games?
This is the second time in four weks that the Blue Jackets have had a four-day break between games; the last such stretch was Oct. 6-9, the time between Columbus' 3-2 shootout win on Long Island and a 4-1 win in Buffalo.
Were they a bit rusty when the puck dropped in western New York? Sure, but it didn't seem to have a lingering effect on their game. In fact, some players said they didn't mind the long break because it gave them a chance to rest some bumps and bruises after a back-to-back opening weekend.
Call it a new chapter, call it whatever you want: the layoff which ends Friday morning carries some added weight for the Blue Jackets. They begin a five-game season series with the Penguins, one of their newly-minted rivals in the Metropolitan Division, in the Steel City on Friday and it's the first of two meetings in 24 hours; both teams will reconvene at Nationwide Arena on Saturday night. The calendar has only just turned to November, but there's a lot on the line when these two teams get together in a couple days' time.
After a win on Wednesday night over the Boston Bruins, the Penguins (18 points) are atop the division but no team has firmly separated itself from the pack. The Blue Jackets could chip away at Pittsburgh's points lead with a productive weekend, but right now, they're only focused on Friday night's game and playing a calculated-yet-aggressive game against one of the NHL's premier teams.
How do the Blue Jackets plan to approach the weekend, starting with Friday's game? They have to do what they do best, which is playing a hard, physical brand of defense against Pittsburgh's top players.
Many of the Blue Jackets' veteran leaders have spent time in the Eastern Conference prior to arriving in Columbus, and have plenty of experience against the Penguins both in the regular season and the playoffs - without question, that group will be leaned on for helpful pieces of information.
Brandon Dubinsky was a go-to guy for the Rangers when they needed to shut down the Penguins' top players, and similarly, Nick Foligno played a key role in getting Sidney Crosby off his game in the playoffs a few years ago. As Dubinsky said earlier this week, rivalries don't "just happen" but over time, and with spirited match-ups along the way, well, you know what they say about familiarity.