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Blue Jackets aim to take first-ever series lead

by Wes Crosby


(Best-of-7 series tied 2-2)


Big story: The Pittsburgh Penguins will attempt to rebound after seeing another multigoal lead slip away in their 4-3 overtime loss in Game 4 Wednesday. The Columbus Blue Jackets, who in the past week have recorded numerous franchise firsts in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, can take their first series lead.

Team Scope:

Blue Jackets: After being less than 30 seconds away from a 3-1 series deficit in their Eastern Conference First Round series, the Blue Jackets have the opportunity to force a potential series-clinching Game 6 on Monday at Nationwide Arena. Columbus has been the more physical team, which might start playing a more vital role as the series enters its later stages.

The Blue Jackets are not satisfied with simply putting a scare into the Penguins, the Eastern Conference's second seed as the Metropolitan Division champion. Columbus believes it can advance past the first round of the playoffs for the first time.

"All this year it was everybody saying it," coach Todd Richards said. "Our goal wasn't just to come in and make a splash."

Penguins: Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has faced questions after allowing two avoidable goals leading to the Penguins' Game 4 loss. He will attempt to answer those questions by returning to form in Game 5. Fleury has been arguably the Penguins' most consistent performer throughout the series, while centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have failed to score a goal.

The Penguins adjusted two defensive pairings during their Friday practice. Olli Maatta joined Kris Letang and Matt Niskanen skated with Rob Scuderi.

"I think the emotional ebb-and-flow of the playoffs is like no other," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "You win a game and you feel extremely good, and we lose a game and you feel the sting of the loss. It's best-of-3 right now and Game 5, starting our home-ice advantage is Saturday, and that is where our team is at. That is where our focus is at."

Who's hot: Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky gave Columbus new life by tying Game 4 with 24 seconds remaining. Dubinsky has scored two points in each of his past two games and has at least one point in each game. He has been instrumental in containing Crosby. … Niskanen has scored at least one point in three of the four games, including two goals. Four of Niskanen's points and each of his goals have been scored on the power play.

Injury report: Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin (undisclosed) participated in practice Friday after missing the past two games. … Pittsburgh forward Marcel Goc (foot) practiced on the fourth line Friday but it is uncertain if he will play in Game 5. Forward Brian Gibbons (undisclosed) skated but did not work on a line.

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