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At the Rink: Penguins at Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS – Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Justin Falk will make his season debut against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nationwide Arena on Friday (7 p.m. ET; SNO, ROOT, FS-O).

Falk was called up Wednesday from Lake Erie of the American Hockey League but was a healthy scratch in a 2-1 win against the New Jersey Devils. He will replace Dalton Prout, who took three penalties in that game.

John Tortorella also made some other line changes moving right wing Nick Foligno to the top line to replace Brandon Saad.

Tortorella liked Brandon Dubinsky centering Matt Calvert and Cam Atkinson on Wednesday but not much else.

Saad was moved to the second line centered by William Karlsson, who got his third goal of the season against the Devils, with Scott Hartnell on the left. Saad and Hartnell each have nine goals, two behind Blue Jackets' leader Boone Jenner.

Jenner will be with Ryan Johansen and Foligno.

"It's getting another line playing besides [Dubinsky's] line, because they didn't play last game," Tortorella said. "I couldn't find [the other lines]. I couldn't find any of them. [Dubinsky's] line was the line that did most of the forechecking and created most of the chances we got.

"We're trying to see if we can ignite something. I' m not sure how long it will stay."

Tortorella was particularly displeased how the Blue Jackets (9-14-0) responded after Calvert gave Columbus a 2-1 lead late in the second.

"I'll put it in general terms," he said. "We don't know how to handle momentum when it's on our side, when it's against us, how you get it back when it's going the wrong way.

"We score a goal and then we don't have a clue the last 1:20. We gave up five scoring chances."

For the Penguins (13-8-0), their 4-3 overtime winner Wednesday against the St. Louis Blues was a primer on how the game against Columbus likely will go.

"Those two teams are very similar," Pittsburgh coach Mike Johnston said. "St. Louis is heavy on the forecheck. I thought the other night we broke out well; the things we did against St. Louis are the things we need to do against Columbus."

Sidney Crosby scored twice and tied his NHL-high with nine shots on goal Wednesday. He has three goals and an assist in the past three games.

"Nine shots a game is probably a little steep but if you look at chances and what we created as a line, that's what we try to do every night," he said. "It doesn't always happen that way but it's our intention."

He knows Dubinsky will be an agitator, which is nothing new.

"You have to be ready to compete, especially when a guy like that wants to shut you down and play physical against you," Crosby said.

Here are the projected lineups:


Pascal DupuisSidney CrosbyPatric Hornqvist

David PerronEvgeni MalkinPhil Kessel

Chris KunitzNick BoninoBeau Bennett

Sergei PlotnikovMatt CullenEric Fehr

Rob ScuderiKris Letang

Brian DumoulinBen Lovejoy

Ian ColeAdam Clendening

Marc-Andre Fleury

Jeff Zatkoff

Injured: Olli Maatta (upper body), Bryan Rust (undisclosed)

Scratched: David Warsofsky, Daniel Sprong


Boone Jenner - Ryan JohansenNick Foligno

Scott HartnellWilliam KarlssonBrandon Saad

Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson

Kerby Rychel - Gregory Campbell - Alexander Wennberg

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Ryan Murray - Andrew Bodnarchuk

Kevin ConnautonJustin Falk

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Injured: Fedor Tyutin (broken nose), Cody Goloubef (jaw), Rene Bourque (upper body), David Clarkson (back), Jared Boll (foot)

Scratched: Dalton Prout

Status report: Falk had two goals and four points in 15 games with Lake Erie. He had one goal and two points in five games for the Blue Jackets last season

Who's hot: The Blue Jackets have killed 33-of-35 shorthanded situations (94.3 percent) since the third period at the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 6, a stretch of 25 periods. … Bobrovsky is 7-2-0 with a 1.90 goals against average and a .939 save percentage in November. .. Pittsburgh is 5-1-2 in its past eight games in Nationwide Arena.

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