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Penguins, Blue Jackets begin home-and-home

by Brian Hunter

BLUE JACKETS (5-6-0) at PENGUINS (9-4-0)


Last 10: Columbus 5-5-0; Pittsburgh 6-4-0

Season series: This is the first of five meetings between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins, new Metropolitan Division rivals. It's also the start of a home-and-home that concludes Saturday night at Nationwide Arena. As cross-conference opponents last season, these teams did not meet. In their most recent matchup, on Feb. 26, 2012, Kris Letang had the game-winning power-play goal in the third period of a 4-2 Pittsburgh victory at Consol Energy Center.

Big story: Even when the Blue Jackets were in the Western Conference they had something of a rivalry with the Penguins, whose fans frequently made the trip to Ohio to make themselves heard during road games. Now an up-and-coming Columbus team gets its first chance to show it won't be pushed around by an established opponent with Stanley Cup aspirations.

Team Scope:

Blue Jackets: Sergei Bobrovsky was a workhorse over the season's first month, starting 10 of 11 games for Columbus but not exactly carrying over the level of play that earned him the Vezina Trophy last season for a Blue Jackets team that just missed qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Bobrovsky was victimized four times on 32 shots Sunday in a 4-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, a game that saw Artem Anisimov score twice for the Blue Jackets, once shorthanded. Bobrovsky owns a 2.60 goals-against average and .916 save percentage -- not poor totals by any means, but not up to his lofty standards.

"The guys played very well in front of me once again," Bobrovsky said in The Columbus Dispatch. "I have to be better. But I'll move forward."

Penguins: Its most-recent win Wednesday didn't lift Pittsburgh into the Stanley Cup Final -- there are still 69 regular-season games to be played before the postseason even starts -- but a 3-2 win against the Boston Bruins had to feel pretty good after the Bruins swept the Penguins out of last spring's Eastern Conference Final.

Locked in a 1-1 tie in the third period, Brandon Sutter's goal with nine minutes remaining put the Penguins in front and Jussi Jokinen scored an insurance goal with 2:02 left that turned out to be the winner after ex-Penguin Jarome Iginla beat Marc-Andre Fleury (21 saves) 19 seconds later.

"I think the intensity and the atmosphere, I'm not sure it was quite April and May and June," coach Dan Bylsma said. "But it certainly was a good match for a Wednesday Night Rivalry game in October."

Who's hot: James Wisniewski has one goal and five assists during a four-game point streak for the Blue Jackets. Brandon Dubinsky has two goals and three assists during a three-game point streak. … Chris Kunitz has goals in consecutive games for the Penguins.

Injury report: Columbus forward Derek MacKenzie (lower body) is day-to-day. Forward Boone Jenner (leg) is expected to miss about a week. Forwards Nathan Horton (shoulder), Cody Bass (hand) and Matt Calvert (abdomen) are on injured reserve. … Pittsburgh defenseman Rob Scuderi (ankle) is out 6-8 weeks. Forward Chuck Kobasew (lower body) is out 3-4 weeks. Goalie Tomas Vokoun (blood clot) and forwards James Neal (upper body) and Beau Bennett (lower body) are on injured reserve.

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