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Game Day Central: Blue Jackets at Penguins

by Staff / Columbus Blue Jackets



CALVERT MAKES IT CLOSE: Matt Calvert cashes in a great feed from Mark Letestu to bring the Jackets within a goal late in the third period.

SECOND PERIOD ANALYSIS: A couple of things to really like about the Blue Jackets' game so far, despite the obvious that they're trailing 1-0 in Pittsburgh...their puck support has been very strong and they're coming up the ice as a group of five. Nothing individual so far, nothing too risky. Columbus has limited the Penguins' chances off the rush by jumping down the wall and aggressively pinching in to keep pucks alive and get more pucks below the goal line. The only thing missing to this point has been more looks from between the circles; the Blue Jackets have worked hard to get the puck into the right areas but the number of grade-A chances is a little low for their liking. For the upcoming third period, you're hoping to see more bodies in front of Fleury and more second and third opportunities as a result.

The Blue Jackets were off to a great start in this game, their third of five meetings on the year with the Pittsburgh Penguins. They got their forecheck going early and were able to get all four lines involved, which goes hand-in-hand with getting their forecheck started but I digress. Shots are 10-8 in favor of Columbus after 20 minutes and they had to kill the only penalty to this point, a late-period hooking minor to Matt Calvert who got a little too aggressive in the offensive zone. The Blue Jackets have been able to play off the rush and work pucks deep, which has allowed them to cycle low and get pucks to the net from just about everywhere. Fleury has seen all 10 so far, but the Blue Jackets were first to put their foot forward tonight and they'll need more of it in the next 40 minutes.

Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards meets with the media after the team's morning skate at CONSOL Energy Center.

WATCH: Cam Atkinson stops by to chat with Bobby Mac about tonight's game in Pittsburgh.

WATCH: Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen speaks with Bob McElligott about tonight's match-up against the Penguins.

UPDATE (12:55 PM): Assuming no other changes, here are the projected forward lines for the Blue Jackets tonight...

Foligno - Johansen - Umberger
Calvert - Dubinsky - Atkinson
Jenner - Anisimov - Comeau
Letestu - MacKenzie - Tropp

- Jack Skille was a healthy scratch for Friday night's win against Minnesota.

UPDATE (12:30 PM):
Both morning skates have concluded in Pittsburgh and tonight's goaltending match-up will be Curtis McElhinney vs. Marc-Andre Fleury in a game that's considered fairly important for both sides; the Penguins are looking to put Saturday's incidents in Boston behind them and the Blue Jackets are seeking their second three-game win streak of the season. 

The Blue Jackets take on the Devils tomorrow night at Nationwide Arena, and would there be any better way to catch the game than with some other cool, social peeps in the Social Station? Today's trivia question gives you the chance to do so...

Reply to us at @BlueJacketsNHL using #CBJSocial to officially submit your answer!

Q: This Blue Jackets goaltender was briefly a New Jersey Devil and played two games for them in 2010-11...who is it?

UPDATE (11:45 AM):
A couple of lineup notes from Penguins coach Dan Bylsma...Evgeni Malkin returns after a two-game absence. Marc-Andre Fleury starts in net and Robert Bortuzzo gets the sixth spot on defense tonight.

UPDATE (10:55 AM):
Brian Dumoulin, one piece of the Jordan Staal-Brandon Sutter deal between Pittsburgh and Carolina at the 2012 NHL Draft, has been recalled by the Penguins and is on the ice for their morning skate. The Penguins placed defenseman Brooks Orpik on injured reserve this morning and with Dumoulin on the roster, now have seven defensemen to work with.

UPDATE (10:45 AM):
The Penguins are wrapping up their morning skate at the CONSOL Energy Center. As of right now, it sounds like Evgeni Malkin will return to the Penguins lineup tonight after missing two games due to a lower body injury. He was practicing in normal line rushes today, as well as taking reps with Pittsburgh's No. 1 power play unit during the morning skate. 

The Blue Jackets are slated to take their morning skate shortly before the noon hour on Monday at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh. As always, we'll have live updates from the skate here at Game Day Central, and also, pre-game interviews, photos, audio and more once we meet with the players and coach Todd Richards. Stay tuned to this page for the latest!

The bad news is that the Blue Jackets now must make do without one of their top defensemen in James Wisniewski, who did not make the trip to Pittsburgh and is expected to miss "about a week," according to Richards. On the bright side, the Blue Jackets are starting to see their forwards get healthy again and Derek MacKenzie was the latest to return to action, doing so Friday night in the team's 4-0 win over Minnesota.

Marian Gaborik, Nathan Horton and Jared Boll remain out indefinitely but Gaborik and Horton have been skating; Horton has been taking part in practices and hopes to resume contact drills in the next couple of weeks. Gaborik isn't far off, Jarmo Kekalainen said last week, and he could be back in the lineup before Christmas. 

With Wisniewski out, the Blue Jackets are recalling a defenseman from Springfield (AHL) to join them in Pittsburgh. David Savard will likely get back in the lineup, and Curtis McElhinney starts in goal against the Penguins.

Can the Blue Jackets learn some things from their previous two meetings against the Penguins this season?

Richards certainly hopes so, but in particular, he'd like to see more of the team that dominated the first period in the first game of the home-and-home series back on the first of November. The Blue Jackets were the team that started on time, throwing just about everything at the Penguins net and forcing Marc-Andre Fleury to be spectacular in net. The trouble for Columbus was that Fleury was, in fact, spectacular in that game and was a big reason why the Penguins earned a 4-2 victory.

The second of those two games was not one of the Blue Jackets' better performances, but they believe that they've improved in several key areas in the weeks following that series. A strong test awaits in a building that isn't kind to visitors (the Penguins are 12-3-0 on home ice this season), and the Blue Jackets - who have covered a lot of material during a hard week of practice and two home-ice wins - are hoping they can crash the party at CONSOL Energy Center on Monday night.

One thing they will need: better defensive zone coverage. Richards and the coaching staff have spent a big chunk of time going over coverage details in practice this week, and also reviewing how the Blue Jackets track the puck back into the neutral zone and support each other coming up the ice. They did that very well on Monday night against the Lightning and also on Friday night, and it's no surprise that two solid defensive efforts resulted in a pair of shutouts. 

There are story lines entering this game, as well; the Blue Jackets are coming off an emotional high with two wins at home, and the Penguins are still sorting out the details following an unfortunate series of events Saturday night in Boston. Evgeni Malkin remains questionable for Monday's game, while James Neal will have a phone hearing for a possible suspension and Brooks Orpik left the game on a stretcher in Boston.

It will be a busy week for the Blue Jackets, who play four games in the next six days beginning Monday night, and they would love to get it started on a positive note.



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