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Penguins preach awareness of Umberger around net

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins expect a physical game with forward RJ Umberger returning to the Columbus Blue Jackets lineup.

After missing five games due to an upper-body injury, Umberger will play against his hometown team in Game 2 of the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round series against Pittsburgh on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-O, ROOT). Umberger said he is excited to return in the Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center.

The feeling wasn't mutual in the Penguins locker room. They expect Umberger to attempt to own the crease in front of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and have prepared for his addition to bolster the Blue Jackets' performance.

"He's a big guy who brings physical play to their lineup," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "He's good in front of the net. He can score goals. He's a veteran guy who has a lot of experience, so I would expect [Columbus] to get a boost from that."

Pittsburgh is familiar with Umberger's style of play. With the Philadelphia Flyers in 2008, Umberger scored four points against the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final, won by Pittsburgh in five games.

The 31-year-old has scored 14 goals and 19 points in 26 playoff games, and 22 points in 34 games against Pittsburgh.

"Umberger is a pretty stout guy. He's big and physical," Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "He's got some good playoff experience too, and has a history of scoring some pretty big goals too. So being aware of him around the net, that'll be important."

The Penguins echoed the word "physical" several times while describing Umberger. That physicality was something the Blue Jackets lacked late in Game 1 on Wednesday after dominating the opening 22 minutes on their way to a 3-1 lead.

Pittsburgh said it needs to avoid a similar sluggish start in Game 2 with Umberger returning.

"He's a player that plays a physical game. He hangs out around the net," Penguins forward Chris Kunitz said. "He scores a lot of, quote-unquote, junky goals, but he'll get in there battling hard and he's going to make it tough for our team. We have to make sure we box guys like that out and don't let them find the second chances."

Umberger, who finished the season tied for tied for fourth on the Blue Jackets with 18 goals and tied for fifth with 34 points, said he doesn't think he brings anything to the lineup that isn't already present. Columbus plays a physical style, and he attempts to fit into that plan.

"I don't think it's anything out of the normal. It's kind of the way we play," Umberger said. "It's the way we play. It's our identity. We have to be a physical, kind of annoying team to play against, and that's what has given us success this year and we're going to keep doing that."

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