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Penguins, Blue Jackets close home-and-home set

by Wes Crosby

PENGUINS (10-4-0) at BLUE JACKETS (5-7-0)


Last 10: Pittsburgh 7-3-0; Columbus 4-6-0

Season series: The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 Friday at Consol Energy Center. After this, the new Metropolitan Division rivals play three more times.

Big story: The Blue Jackets return home to Nationwide Arena and will attempt to rebound from the two-goal loss. The Penguins are on top of the Metropolitan by nine points.

Team Scope:

Penguins: After suffering a short slump last week, losing three straight to the Colorado Avalanche, New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh has rebounded with three consecutive wins. Despite allowing 39 shots Friday, the Penguins defense has been impressive this season: Pittsburgh ranks fourth in the Eastern Conference with 2.36 goals allowed per game.

The offense is ranked third in the conference with 3.14 goals per game and is starting to get contributions from its bottom-six forwards. Brandon Sutter has scored two goals in his past two games after being held without one in his first 12.

"It's definitely one of those things that sometimes it goes in, sometimes it doesn't," Sutter said. "Fortunately, the last couple nights, it has. I don't pay too much attention to trying to go in and score goals all of the time. I just worry about my game."

Blue Jackets: Despite being 10 points behind Pittsburgh in the division, Columbus is one of six teams fighting for second place. The Blue Jackets rose in the standings after winning three straight games against the Vancouver Canucks, New Jersey Devils and the Maple Leafs.

Columbus and Pittsburgh are the only teams in the division without a negative goal-differential.

"They've established themselves as still being an elite team and we're trying to catch them," Blue Jackets forward RJ Umberger said. "It seems like our division is up for grabs right now and we're trying to get in that top-three spot. So these are crucial for us to establish what type of team we are."

Who's hot: Penguins forward Chris Kunitz has scored six goals in his past nine games. Forward Sidney Crosby leads the NHL with 22 points. … Blue Jackets forward Ryan Johansen has six points (three goals) in his past six games. Forward Marian Gaborik leads the Blue Jackets with 10 points and has scored three goals in his past four games.

Injury report: Pittsburgh forward Beau Bennett (lower body) has skated on his own but has yet to rejoin the team at practice or a morning skate. Forward Tanner Glass seemed to get injured late in the game Friday, but Penguins coach Dan Bylsma did not have an update afterward. The Penguins will be without forwards James Neal (upper body) and Chuck Kobasew (lower body), and defenseman Rob Scuderi (ankle). … Blue Jackets forward Nathan Horton (shoulder) continues to rehab from offseason surgery after sustaining his injury during a fight with then-Penguins forward Jarome Iginla on April 20. Forwards Boone Jenner (leg) and Matt Calvert (abdomen) have been sidelined.

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