The Blue Jackets, winners of three straight and 6-3-1 in their last 10, take on the Penguins
- a team that has beaten them three times this season already and has been the steady leader atop the Metropolitan Division.
All three meetings (to this point) in the season series have been close games, but in the eyes of the Blue Jackets, that doesn't count for a whole lot considering they're 0-3 against the Penguins in 2013-14. The most recent match-up, a 2-1 loss at CONSOL Energy Center on Dec. 9, was 2-0 lead for Pittsburgh deep into the third period before Matt Calvert
scored in the final minute of regulation.
Much like the Blue Jackets, the Penguins have also been hit hard by the injury bug this year. They lead the NHL in man games lost to injury while Columbus has been top-5 in that category, as well. The Penguins do not expect to have star center Evgeni Malkin back in the lineup on Sunday at Nationwide Arena despite him practicing with the team on Saturday. Defenseman Rob Scuderi also practiced with the Penguins and is a possibility to play Sunday, according to coach Dan Bylsma.Here are the dueling team scopes from NHL.com...Penguins:
The Blue Jackets may have lost their franchise goalie, but the Penguins have suffered an unfathomable amount of injuries over the past month. They've included ailments to each of their top-four defensemen as well as an injury to center Evgeni Malkin. Through it all, they've continued to win, posting victories in 13 of their past 15 games.
The latest addition to the walking wounded is first-line wing Pascal Dupuis, who was hurt Monday against the Ottawa Senators and will require ACL surgery, which could sideline him the remainder of the season.
Joe Vitale assumed Dupuis' spot alongside Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz on Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes, although James Neal also saw time on Pittsburgh's top line. On the road, Deryk Engelland gave Pittsburgh a late 3-2 lead before Drayson Bowman tied the game with 2:29 left in regulation. Neal only needed 63 seconds of extra time to give the Penguins a 4-3 win, improving their overtime record to 5-1.
For a moment, it appeared the Penguins might suffer another injury when goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury took a puck to the throat during overtime. He appeared shaken on the play but remained in the game.
"I lost my breath for a little bit, but it was fine," Fleury said.
The game was a victory on and off the score sheet as Pittsburgh welcomed back Engelland and fellow defenseman Brooks Orpik, who missed eight games with a head injury.
Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets have also enjoyed success of late despite some major injuries. Since losing Bobrovsky in the third period of their game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Dec. 3, Columbus has gone 7-3-1. They've done it despite briefly losing backup Curtis McElhinney to a lower-body injury as well as prolonged absences from all-star Marian Gaborik and wing Nathan Horton, who has yet to play after signing a seven-year contract with the team over the summer.
But after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, Horton has recently been practicing without a red no-contact jersey and is expected to make his Columbus debut sometime soon, though likely not Sunday against Pittsburgh.
Columbus is riding a three-game win streak after topping the New Jersey Devils on Friday in Newark. Tied 1-1 after 65 minutes of play, Cam Atkinson scored the lone goal in the shootout.