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Blue Jackets not concerned by Bobrovsky's play

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- Columbus Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards isn't sure why Sergei Bobrovsky isn't at the level he displayed in winning the Vezina Trophy last season. But he is convinced a turnaround will come.

It just won't start Saturday in Nationwide Arena. Columbus completes a home-and-home on consecutive nights against the Pittsburgh Penguins with Curtis McElhinney making his second start of the season.

Bobrovsky was pulled at 3:01 of the second period Friday after the Penguins (10-4-0) jumped to a 3-0 lead on 13 shots. McElhinney stopped 13 of 14 shots in the 4-2 defeat, the second straight for the Blue Jackets (5-7-0) after a three-game winning streak which began when McElhinney defeated the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 on Oct. 20.

"We have full confidence in both goalies," Columbus defenseman James Wisniewski said. "We have to make sure we play the game well and play our style."

Richards said he decided shortly after Friday's game that Bobrovsky, who has a 2.79 goals-against average compared to 2.00 last season, needed a break. Bobrovsky spent a lot of time Saturday morning working with goalie coach Ian Clark during the optional skate.

"He's played some good games and made some big saves for us," Richards said. "Going back to last year, I think we saw some similar things when we were fluctuating between [Steve] Mason and Bobrovsky, trying to find who's going to establish themselves as our No. 1.

"One thing I know about Bob is he takes a lot of pride in his game. He takes a lot of pride in how he does things and preparation. He's a worker and I know he's not happy with his game and I know he's going to work hard to repair his game."

Unlike McElhinney's prior start, when it was clear Bobrovsky would return for the next game no matter how well the backup played, Richards was noncommittal.

"I'm not going to comment on that right now," he said. "I'm just worried about the game tonight and we'll see how the game goes. We'll make that decision Tuesday [against the Ottawa Senators]."

Richards said there will be one more change to the lineup with defenseman Nikita Nikitin playing after being a healthy scratch the past five games. The coach did not say who would be benched but he will likely stick with six defensemen.

Pittsburgh canceled its morning skate, but coach Dan Bylsma may turn to goalie Jeff Zatkoff over Marc-Andre Fleury for his third career start. Fleury stopped 37 of 39 shots Friday.

The Penguins expect a different Blue Jackets team for the rematch.

"We know we've got to do better," Pittsburgh center Brandon Sutter said after the game Friday. "We know they're good team and they're going to play hard [Saturday]. We have to show up and play a full 60 minutes and give a little better effort."

Here are the projected lineups for the Penguins and Blue Jackets:


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Pascal Dupuis

Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - Jayson Megna

Tanner Glass - Brandon Sutter - Matt D'Agostini

Dustin Jeffrey - Joe Vitale - Craig Adams

Brooks Orpik - Paul Martin

Matt Niskanen - Kris Letang

Olli Maatta - Robert Bortuzzo

Jeff Zatkoff

Marc-Andre Fleury

Scratched: Deryk Engelland

Injured: James Neal (upper body), Tomas Vokoun (pelvis), Beau Bennett (lower body), Rob Scuderi (ankle), Chuck Kobasew (lower body)


Nick Foligno - Artem Anisimov - Marian Gaborik

Mark Letestu - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson

Blake Comeau - Ryan Johansen - R.J. Umberger

Michael Chaput - Derek MacKenzie - Jared Boll

Fedor Tyutin - Dalton Prout

Ryan Murray - James Wisniewski

Jack Johnson - Nikita Nikitin

Curtis McElhinney

Sergei Bobrovsky

Scratched: Ryan Craig, David Savard

Injured: Boone Jenner (leg), Nathan Horton (shoulder), Matt Calvert (abdomen)

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