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Game 5 Preview: Blue Jackets at Penguins

Jackets look to send the series back home Thursday night

by Alison Lukan @AlisonL /





With the Jackets' first win of the 2017 post-season on Tuesday, the series score has changed (3-1), but the Jackets objective remains the same. They need to win their next game to have the opportunity to keep playing.

Tuesday's victory definitely gave the team some things to hang their hat on as they travel back to Pittsburgh for Game Five. In Game Four, the Jackets built an early lead that they never relinquished, and they survived 60 minutes of momentum swings against the defending Stanley Cup Champions to come away with the 5-4 win.


"It's not like we played a flawless game," head coach John Tortorella said. "I looked at some things that I didn't want to have happen that way, but I think we're going to be better because they did and we found a way to win."

Here are five things to watch for:

The right kind of physical play.

As the series has gone on, the Jackets have decreased the number of hits by the team from a high of 51 in Game One to a low of 27 in Game Four. The goal for the Jackets is to have the puck more than the Penguins and that means making the hits that will help them achieve that goal versus simply hitting to be physical.

"We still want to stay on the body as much as we can," Josh Anderson said. "Maybe in Game One and Game Two we were going out of our way to make that big hit and they were getting odd man rushes. In Games Three and Four we were smarter, picking and choosing when to lay the body on. It helped us for sure."

Video: Anderson on what worked for the Jackets in Game Four

Playing between the whistles only.

There's no love lost between these two teams, but the amount of post-whistle scuffles has decreased, particularly after an aggressive Game Two that saw Brandon Dubinsky take a roughing call at the conclusion of the second period and later, Matt Calvert's crosscheck that resulted in a one-game suspension.

Chalk it up to another lesson learned. The Jackets don't want to do anything to risk giving the Penguins any kind of advantage. They want to play hard, but stay away from post-whistle scrums.

"They're smart players over there," Anderson said. "They might be trying to get us into that (physical) stuff. We don't want to get into that, because we know how deadly their power play is. We want to skate away and go about our own business."

Video: Torts meets the media on an off day

Improving shot attempts.

The Jackets achieved their highest goal total of the series in Tuesday's win (5), and 16 of 18 players registered at least one shot on goal. A theme in these games has been to get better chances to score and the Jackets think they are finding their way, including getting better at creating shot lanes, looking for tips, and creating rebounds.

"I think we're working on ways to get in there and create secondary chances," Boone Jenner said. "We want to take away (Marc-Andre Fleury's) eyes on some shots and make it more difficult on him to make saves."

You know Jack.

Jack Johnson had a goal in Tuesday's win. It was his second point in as many games. In his career, the defenseman has five goals and 16 assists in 22 career post-season games, making him almost a point-per-game player (.95) and ranking him 13th among all NHL players since 2005 in playoff points per game.

"He's not afraid of the situation," Tortorella said. "There are some big game players that on a big stage aren't nervous, or, become even more comfortable. I think he thinks differently than a lot of new players coming into the league, he's a bit old school, I just think he gets it."

Video: Jack Johnson talks about his style of play

The backbone.

Tortorella was impressed, but not surprised, with Sergei Bobrovsky's ability to provide key saves in Game Four, including standing tall against a Penguins' surge late in the second period. Bobrovsky also had a big save on Ron Hainsey with just under five-and-a-half minutes to go in the game to preserve the Jackets' lead.

"He's the backbone of our team. There's been a little inconsistency here and there…he wants that second goal back…but we end up a little nervous after that second Penguins goal and he made two or three huge saves. Bob hasn't been perfect, but we don't go anywhere if we're not on his back. He has had such a fantastic year. I think we get spoiled."

Projected Lineup:

Foligno - Dubinsky - Atkinson

Jenner - Wennberg - Saad

Gagner - Sedlak - Bjorkstrand

Calvert - Karlsson - Anderson

Quincey - Jones

Johnson - Savard

Nutivaara - Carlsson


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