The Pittsburgh Penguins (15-13-3) enter Monday's game winless under new coach Mike Sullivan, with their offensive struggles at the forefront. They have dropped five straight overall, the most recent a home loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night.
This most recent swoon comes after the Penguins made a mid-season coaching change — replacing Mike Johnston with Sullivan, a longtime assistant of Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella. Sullivan was elevated from his position of head coach with the team's AHL club in Wilkes-Barre, where the "Baby Pens" were 18-5-0 before the change.
The team also made hockey headlines this week with the season's first player-for-player trade in the NHL. Veteran defenseman Rob Scuderi, a two-time member of the Penguins, was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for mobile blueliner Trevor Daley, who's fit in nicely during his short time with the new club.
Marc-Andre Fleury, undoubtedly the Penguins' best player so far this season, is suffering from a concussion and expected to miss 1-2 weeks. That leaves the goaltending duties to backup Jeff Zatkoff and Matt Murray, who was called up from the AHL late last week.
The Blue Jackets (12-19-3) have been dealing with injury issues of their own, and continue to rely on goaltenders Curtis McElhinney and Joonas Korpisalo, the latter picking up his first NHL win in Saturday's shootout win over the Flyers.
These two Metropolitan Division rivals last met on Nov. 27 for a post-Thanksgiving showdown at Nationwide Arena, and it was quite the entertaining hockey game.
To the delight of the home crowd, the Jackets beat the Penguins in overtime (Columbus' first OT appearance of the season) on a Cam Atkinson goal set up by Brandon Dubinsky.
After going scoreless in the first 40 minutes of regulation, Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin opened the scoring while on the power play at 9:15 of the third, but the lead lasted less than three minutes.
Ryan Johansen’s equalizer, which was challenged by the Penguins, was deemed a “good goal” and the call on the ice was upheld.
Keep your eyes locked on Cam Atkinson during this game. Given his recent success against the Penguins, the speedy forward will certainly be one to watch.
Atkinson has scored 10 goals and added 11 assists for 21 points so far during the 2015-16 season. Of those goals, one was scored on the power play, one was shorthanded and two of them were game-winners.
Tortorella reunited the frequently-successful line of Dubinsky, Atkinson and Calvert for Saturday's game, and they three combined to play another solid game together, and they always seem to be on top of their game when it's time to face the Penguins.