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Game Day Central: Blue Jackets vs. Penguins

by Staff / Columbus Blue Jackets



SECOND PERIOD ANALYSIS: This has blossomed into quite the hockey game in downtown Columbus tonight. The building is buzzing after Corey Tropp delivered one of the goals of the year late in the second period, an absolutely filthy dangle through the Penguins defense and a better finish behind Zatkoff. His second of the season was pretty timely, too, pulling the Blue Jackets into a 2-2 tie after James Neal's second goal gave the Penguins a second period lead. It's been physical, combative, fast-paced...everything you ask for in a hockey game. The Blue Jackets brought their work boots in the second and out-shot Pittsburgh by a 12-8 margin, and it's setting up to be a wild third period at Nationwide Arena.

Nationwide Arena was BOOOOOOONE'ing after this huge hit on Robert Bortuzzo!

WATCH: What a goal by Corey Tropp. Just filthy. We're tied at 2-2.

FIRST PERIOD ANALYSIS: On the whole, not a bad opening period for the Blue Jackets despite a rash of penalty trouble in the early going. When the second period begins, the Penguins will be completing their third power play opportunity (1:31 remains) by way of some careless penalties by the Blue Jackets. But, let's talk about that first period...some great work in the offensive zone by Brandon Dubinsky allowed him to cut inside on the Penguins' defense and zip a backhander through the legs of Jeff Zatkoff at 3:59 of the first to make it 1-0 Columbus. The Penguins answered less thn a minute later on the power play with James Neal's 12th of the season, a high-rising wrister over McElhinney's shoulder. That's where we stand after 20 minutes inside an energetic Nationwide Arena. Fun game so far.

Brandon Dubinsky goes five-hole on Jeff Zatkoff to give the Jackets a 1-0 lead.

#CBJ SOCIAL CONTEST: It's time to #DefendNWA for this big Metropolitan Division match-up against the we're giving away two pairs of tickets to the CBJ Social Station today!

How does one win those tickets? Read on...

Tweet us a picture at @BlueJacketsNHL using #CBJ (creativity counts, folks!) of the jersey number of the Blue Jackets player who scored the team's only goal in their most recent meeting with the Penguins.

You have until 3 pm...good luck!

Today's podcast features the return of Jody Shelley (didn't you miss him?), and he and Bob McElligott talk Jackets-Penguins, managing opportunities and mistakes, and defending home ice. Listen here --> PODCAST

UPDATE (11:10 AM):
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma announced after their morning skate that Jeff Zatkoff will start in goal against the Blue Jackets. He posted a shutout (the first of his career) on Nov. 2 at Nationwide Arena.

PRE GAME AUDIO: Ryan Johansen | Mark Letestu | Todd Richards

UPDATE (10:40 AM):
Todd Richards just said Derek MacKenzie will take warm-ups tonight and then a decision will be made as to whether he plays vs. Pittsburgh. 

UPDATE (10:30 AM):
Here are the Blue Jackets' defense pairs for tonight's game...

Tyutin - Johnson
Murray - Wisniewski
Nikitin - Savard

Forward lines may change depending on MacKenzie's status. He has not officially been ruled out for tonight's game.

UPDATE (9:45 AM):
Curtis McElhinney starts tonight for Columbus.

UPDATE (9:45 AM):
David Savard has returned to practice today after missing yesterday's skate. Looks like he's good to go tonight. 

UPDATE (9:40 AM):
The Blue Jackets are on the ice for their morning skate at Nationwide Arena. Derek MacKenzie is not practicing and Ryan Craig has not yet arrived from Springfield. At this point, it doesn't appear likely that MacKenzie will play tonight against Pittsburgh.

 Winners of three straight, the Blue Jackets are back at Nationwide Arena for a quick one-game stop before heading out on a West Coast trip to ring in the new year. The Blue Jackets are scheduled for a 9:30 a.m. morning skate at Nationwide Arena, and we'll have complete coverage for you right here at Game Day Central. Also, look for lineup changes, thoughts on the match-up against the Penguins, storylines from the other side and an interview with coach Todd Richards. Stay tuned to this page for the latest!

The Blue Jackets do not expect any lineup changes from what we saw Friday night in New Jersey, a hard-fought 2-1 shootout win that was more about patience and more patience than anything else.

Derek MacKenzie and David Savard both missed practice on Saturday, but Richards said they're considered day-to-day and are expected to play Sunday.

Assuming no other changes, expect the forward lines and defense pairs to remain the same. Curtis McElhinney is slated for his second straight start in goal. 

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

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.



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