COLUMBUS – Star attractions will be missing, but that shouldn’t diminish the intensity when the Pittsburgh Penguins play the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday for the first time since their First Round series in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Penguins (19-6-3) defeated the Blue Jackets 4-3 on April 28 to win the best-of-seven series 4-2 and the Blue Jackets haven’t forgotten.
“They’re the team [that] knocked us out last year and ended our season,” Columbus left wing Matt Calvert said. “We want to win against them as much as we can. I know our fans love it when we beat these guys. Being so close [geographically] it builds that rivalry.”
The Penguins will be without Sidney Crosby for a second straight game as a precaution while it’s determined whether he has the mumps.
Columbus (11-15-2) has won five straight, but will be missing left wing Scott Hartnell, who broke a finger during a 3-2 overtime win at the Washington Capitals on Thursday.
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards knows the Penguins will be affected by the loss of Crosby (nine goals and 35 points in 27 games), but is impressed with how they played in a 3-1 win against the Calgary Flames on Friday.
“They’re committed to a team game and how they play,” Richards said. “That makes it even more difficult to play against.”
Pittsburgh will also be without left wing Zach Sill, who sustained an injury in the first period of the game Friday, and promoted forwards Bryan Rust and Bobby Farnham from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. Both are expected to make their NHL debut.
Pittsburgh did not practice Saturday morning and coach Mike Johnston is expected to address the media prior to the game.
Rust, the 80th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, played four seasons at Notre Dame and has 10 goals and 14 points in 25 AHL games this season. Farnham is an undrafted free agent who has spent the past three seasons playing for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after four years at Brown University. He has a goal, four points and 113 penalty minutes this season.
Here are the projected lineups:
Nick Spaling – Evgeni Malkin – Blake Comeau
Bryan Rust – Brandon Sutter – Patric Hornqvist
Rob Klinkhammer – Marcel Goc – Steve Downie
Bobby Farnham – Andrew Ebbett - Craig Adams
Kris Letang – Paul Martin
Christian Ehrhoff – Robert Bortuzzo
Simon Despres – Rob Scuderi
Scratched: Brian Dumoulin
Injured: Sidney Crosby (illness), Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Beau Bennett (lower body), Chris Kunitz (foot fracture), Olli Maatta (upper body), Scott Wilson (leg), Zach Sill (upper body)
Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson
Boone Jenner - Ryan Johansen - Jack Skille
Kerby Rychel - Nick Foligno - Brian Gibbons
Corey Tropp - Michael Chaput - Jared Boll
Jack Johnson – David Savard
Kevin Connauton - James Wisniewski
Jordan Leopold - Dalton Prout
Scratched: Tim Erixon, Adam Cracknell
Injured: Nathan Horton (back), Ryan Murray (knee), Fedor Tyutin (knee), Mark Letestu (groin), Artem Anisimov (torn triceps), Scott Hartnell (broken finger)
Status report: Pittsburgh forward Jayson Megna was sent to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after taking four penalties against the Flames… Rychel was recalled from Springfield (AHL) and will take Hartnell’s place in the lineup. Rychel, a rookie, had three assists in four games during a recent stint with Columbus. “He had a great showing when he first came up,” Calvert said. “It was just a numbers game is what it came down to when he was sent back. Now he’s got another chance on a good line.”
Who’s hot: The Penguins have won five straight regular season games in Nationwide Arena since March 9, 2009. Pittsburgh is 10-1-1 in its past 12 games against the Blue Jackets… Bobrovsky is 5-0-0 with a .949 save percentage in his past five games.