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Facing elimination, Jackets enjoying underdog role

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- Pressure? What pressure?

Facing elimination Monday from the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Columbus Blue Jackets insist they can handle what lies ahead in Game 6 at Nationwide Arena (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-O, ROOT).

In fact, a day after the Penguins' 3-1 victory in Game 5 on Saturday at Consol Energy Center for a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series, Columbus coach Todd Richards used different terminology to describe the Blue Jackets' situation.

"I'm looking at this as it's not necessarily an elimination game," he said. "I'm looking at it as a rebound game or a response game.

"We've dealt with adversity all year. We've dealt with a lot of ups and downs. We've had games where maybe we haven't played our best, or maybe the other team has just outplayed us, and we've responded the next game."

Part of that may be because the Blue Jackets relish the role of underdog in the series.

"There's no doubt [the Penguins] don't want to go to Game 7," Columbus left wing RJ Umberger said. "Obviously, they want to end this series as fast as possible. That's typical, especially in a series as physical as this. Before we even started, they were probably looking who they were going to play next anyways."

After splitting the first four games, the Penguins upped their play Saturday and outshot Columbus 51-24.

"I got the question [Saturday] night, 'Was this the Pittsburgh team that you were expecting?'" Columbus center Brandon Dubinsky said. "Well, sure it was the Pittsburgh team we were expecting throughout the series but what Columbus team we're they expecting throughout the series?

"We've done a lot of good things throughout the series and I'll continue to believe we have confidence in our room in what we have. We've shown all season long we're willing to take adversity in stride and be resilient and get back to where we want to be. I expect [Monday] to be no different."

Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson said although the Blue Jackets are young and not as playoff savvy as the veteran Penguins, they know what's at stake.

"When you're life's on the line you're going to push a little bit harder, a little bit further, a little bit longer than you normally would," he said.

The Blue Jackets are in the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and lost five regular-season games against Penguins. In Johnson's view, the pressure is not on Columbus.

"It's always been on Pittsburgh," he said. "They're the ones the so-called experts told that they're supposed to win the series."

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