Two former number one overall picks in the NHL Draft.
Two captains of their respective clubs.
Two teams fighting for playoff spots.
One sheet of ice.
One Friday night in February on FOX Sports Ohio HD.
When Columbus travels to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow night, two of the game’s biggest stars will face-off for only the third time in their careers with two crucial playoff points on the line. The game, set for 7:30 p.m. ET at Mellon Arena, will pit Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash against Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.
"It's going to be a tough battle," said Nash. "Both teams are desperate for points and both teams need the points so it's going be a tough game with lots of hitting and lots of checking."
The game will feature two players that were named captain of their respective teams at young ages. A four-time NHL All-Star, Nash has been a force on the Jackets, setting multiple records throughout his career with the organization and was named captain last season. Meanwhile, Crosby, who is the youngest player to be named captain in NHL history, has won multiple NHL awards and has been named to the NHL All-Star team every year he's been in the league.
"He is one of the best players in the game," said R.J. Umberger, who saw his fair share of Crosby over the last few seasons as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers. "He's an exciting offensive player and he plays with a lot of emotion and passion. He has done a lot for rebuilding that team and (Evgeni) Malkin, along with him, they are a good duo. Obviously, on our end, we are going to try and limit them and try to win the game."
Malkin is another player to be reckoned with on the Penguins. He is the NHL leader in points (76) and assists (54), and with Crosby, makes Pittsburgh a very dangerous squad offensively.
"They are both great talents and are very unique," said Blue Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock. "To be as competitive as they are and as well rounded offensively is really dynamic.
"Malkin is a great talent and has size to go with it like (Washington's Alex) Ovechkin, but to me Crosby is the guy that can beat you a number of different ways with a number of different moves. He is one of those unique guys that as good of a shooter as he is, he might be a better passer."
The series has been very competitive with the Jackets going 3-3-2 all-time against Pittsburgh. Despite not having played the Pens since Oct. 21, 2006, the two squads will meet twice in the next month and a half in what is quickly becoming a rivalry amongst the two cities and the players. Currently, the Nash vs. Crosby series is tied at 1-1-0 with each player leading their clubs to wins on home ice.
"I think we are so close and fans can get to each others arena so easily," said Nash. "I'm sure if we played in their conference and played them all the time it would be a rivalry, but since the states are so close it has been a (rivalry) a little bit."
As the season turns towards the homestretch and with two teams jockeying for playoff positioning the intensity level will be turned up a notch. This game promises to be exciting for both the players and fans alike.
"I think there is going to be a lot of emotion and it will be an exciting game to watch," said Umberger. "I think it's going to be two teams playing hard and trying to salvage some points."