BLUE JACKETS (33-12-4) at PENGUINS (31-13-5)
7 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, ROOT, FS-O, NHL.TV
Blue Jackets team scope
Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who has lost his past two starts and allowed four goals in each, is expected to start against the Pittsburgh Penguins after backing up Joonas Korpisalo on Tuesday. Bobrovsky made 25 saves on 26 shots in the Blue Jackets' only previous meeting with the Penguins this season, a 7-1 win at Nationwide Arena on Dec. 22. Defenseman Markus Nutivaara, who practiced the past two days, could return Friday, but is expected to miss an eighth game with an undisclosed injury. Columbus, which did not have a morning skate, enters the game with 70 points, three ahead of Pittsburgh for second in the Metropolitan Division and four behind the Washington Capitals for the division lead. The Blue Jackets, who are 15-7-3 on the road, are 6-7-0 since their 16-game winning streak from Nov. 29-Jan. 3. Coach John Tortorella was particularly disappointed in his team's effort Tuesday, when they allowed the New York Rangers to score four third-period goals after taking a 6-0 lead. "We're gravitating (toward the puck), and it's almost like we're playing man-to-man on defense, and we don't play man-to-man," Tortorella said Wednesday, according to the Columbus Dispatch. "There's no communication, so a lot of people get (stuck) in between."
Penguins team scope
Pittsburgh could have forward Matt Cullen back in its first game without left wing Conor Sheary. Cullen, who missed six games with a foot injury, took part in the optional morning skate after practicing the past two days. He took Sheary's place as left wing on center Sidney Crosby's line during practice Thursday. "Crosby's line for most of this year has been dynamic with Conor Sheary on the left side," coach Mike Sullivan said, "so we haven't really changed that line a whole lot because of the success that they've enjoyed." Cullen, 40, has eight goals and 17 points in 43 games this season. Sheary is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with an upper-body injury sustained against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. Goalie Matt Murray is expected to make his eighth consecutive start. He allowed six goals on 23 shots in Pittsburgh's loss at Columbus six weeks ago. Murray has started each game since Marc-Andre Fleury surrendered six goals on 34 shots against the Detroit Red Wings on Jan. 14. "We feel like we have two really good goalies," Sullivan said. "These decisions are difficult. … We understand that both guys want to play and they're both very competitive guys." The Penguins are 5-2-0 in their past seven games and 10-5-0 in their past 15. They've been especially good at home, going 21-3-2 at PPG Paints Arena. Forward Phil Kessel will play his 800th NHL game.
Blue Jackets projected lineup
Brandon Saad -- Alexander Wennberg -- Nick Foligno
Boone Jenner -- Brandon Dubinsky -- Cam Atkinson
Matt Calvert -- William Karlsson -- Josh Anderson
Scott Hartnell -- Lukas Sedlak -- Sam Gagner
Zach Werenski -- Seth Jones
Ryan Murray -- Jack Johnson
Scott Harrington -- Dalton Prout
Injured: David Clarkson (back), Markus Nutivaara (undisclosed), David Savard (undisclosed)
Penguins projected lineup
Matt Cullen -- Sidney Crosby -- Patric Hornqvist
Jake Guentzel -- Nick Bonino -- Phil Kessel
Carl Hagelin -- Carter Rowney -- Bryan Rust
Chris Kunitz -- Eric Fehr -- Scott Wilson
Brian Dumoulin -- Kris Letang
Ian Cole -- Justin Schultz
Olli Maatta -- Trevor Daley
Scratched: Tom Kuhnhackl, Chad Ruhwedel
Injured : Evgeni Malkin (lower body), Conor Sheary (upper body)
Columbus reassigned defenseman Dean Kukan to Cleveland on Wednesday, one day after he was recalled. … Malkin, who is three assists away from 500 in his NHL career, has skated with skills coach Ty Hennes before recent practices but is expected to miss his third consecutive game.
Jones has six points (two goals, four assists) in his past four games. He scored two goals against the Rangers on Tuesday. Wennberg has seven points (one goal, six assists) in his past four games and Werenski has four (one goal, three assists) in his past two. … Crosby has 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in his past eight games. He is six points shy of 1,000 in his NHL career. Schultz has nine points (one goal, eight assists) in his past seven games.