PITTSBURGH - When the Blue Jackets took the ice today for their morning skate at CONSOL Energy Center, two familiar faces rejoined the group after missing time in the series.
Both Ryan Murray and Fedor Tyutin, neither of whom played Wednesday in Game 4 at Nationwide Arena, were full participants in the Jackets' morning practice and were part of regular defense pairings during line rushes.
Tyutin was paired with fellow Russian Nikita Nikitin during today's morning skate - a pairing the Blue Jackets have used often over the past couple of seasons - and Murray slotted in with usual partner James Wisniewski.
Wisniewski, asked in the dressing room if he anticipated Murray playing tonight, joked that this was one of the few times he'd ever have to withhold comment.
But Richards handled the formalities in his morning media session, confirming that both Tyutin and Murray are expected to play in Game 5 tonight. If that holds true, Nick Schultz and Dalton Prout - who made up the Jackets' third pair in Game 4 - will be scratched.
"It feels good," Murray said this morning. "It's a game-time decision, but I feel really good."
In what is a pivotal Game 5, the Jackets having two of their most reliable players back on the blue line is clearly a huge boost. The group of six defensemen who dressed in Game 4 did well to hold the Penguins at bay after their three-goal outburst in the first period, and it was another strong game for both Jack Johnson and David Savard, who drew some of the more difficult assignments against Pittsburgh's top players.
With Murray and Tyutin back, here's how the Blue Jackets skated this morning:
As for tonight's game and the build-up surrounding it, Murray said the element of unpredictability has subsided as the series has moved along. There's less guessing and more reacting now, and especially so that both the Blue Jackets and Penguins have a pretty good read on each other.
"They've been four pretty intense games," Murray said. "It's been a strange series with each team coming back from deficits and stealing one in each other's barns. No team's going to quit no matter what the score is, and it's important for us to get a lead.
"(Tonight's game) is a little different than Game 1 when we didn't really know what to expect. We've played four games against them already and we know what they're like, and we played five (games) with them in the regular season. They know what we're like, too, but we have to stick to our game and carry that momentum we got from the last game into this one."