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Round 1

Blue Jackets want more shots from in close

Columbus hopes to put pressure on Penguins defense, goalie in Game 2

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- The Columbus Blue Jackets thought they made tracking the puck too easy for Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in a 3-1 loss in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round.

They're preparing to change that, starting in Game 2 at PPG Paints Arena on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports 2, ROOT, FS-O).

"We have to get inside," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said after practice Thursday. "Give them credit. Give Pittsburgh credit. I thought they defended well in front of their goalie. They blocked a lot of shots. … I think both teams, a big part of the series is getting inside."

The Blue Jackets controlled the first period by pinning the Penguins deep in their zone, which led to a 16-3 shot advantage after 20 minutes.

Although the shots on goal were lopsided, the period ended with neither team scoring mostly because of Columbus' inability to create second-chance opportunities. That resulted in goalie Marc-Andre Fleury seeing 16 first-period shots, but making 16 relatively simple saves.

That must change Friday, when Fleury will again start with goalie Matt Murray recovering from a lower-body injury sustained in warmups Wednesday.

"We have to do a better job of trying to get in there and trying to get shots [inside]," Tortorella said. "I still think we have to continue to concentrate on making them spend time in their end zone, but we have to be more effective when we're there."

During their practice Thursday, the Blue Jackets intentionally shot off their goaltenders' pads repeatedly, which they plan to implement Friday. Forwards Scott Hartnell and Brandon Dubinsky said their approach won't change regardless of which goalie they face.

"They're both good," Hartnell said.

"[Fleury and Murray are] both great goalies," Dubinsky said. "We have to focus on getting more pucks to the net. … Goals are tough to come by. Goalies are good. So, you're going to have to bang some rebounds in."

In order to increase their scoring chances, the Blue Jackets likely will need forward Brandon Saad, who was third on the team with 53 points (24 goals, 29 assists) in the regular season, to bounce back from a poor Game 1 performance.

Saad was benched in the third period, but rejoined center Alexander Wennberg and right wing Nick Foligno on the top line during practice Thursday. He said playing 1:45 in the third period Wednesday would not affect him moving forward.

"When I do get out there, I'll do my best and try to help the team win," Saad said. "It's [Tortorella's] job to put the team out there that he thinks will get the job done. For me, that's out of my control. … It's do-or-die here. So every game, it's a clean slate."

The Blue Jackets lineup likely will remain the same. Defenseman Zach Werenski is expected to play a second straight game after returning from missing four games with an upper-body injury Wednesday.

Werenski took a maintenance day Thursday. Tortorella was impressed with Werenski's effort in Game 1 and said that commitment is necessary from the 19-year-old rookie, and other young Blue Jackets defensemen, if they're going to win Game 2 before returning to Columbus.

"There's nothing on the ice that makes me think he's 19," Tortorella said. "That's what's so thrilling about what we have. Not only now, but for a number of years, as far as with some of our other young 'D'. … He's become a very good pro in one year that I've seen him."

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