In the first highly-anticipated matchup between Pittsburgh and Columbus at Nationwide Arena on Dec. 22, the Blue Jackets ended up with an emphatic 7-1 win.
And though the Pens had to quickly turn the page for a game the next night against New Jersey, Sidney Crosby said afterward they weren't going to forget about that game.
"We obviously don't want to forget about this the next time we play them," he told me that night. "They're a good team and any time you lose 7-1, you've got to be motivated the next time you play them. We've got to move on here tomorrow night, but we've got to keep that game in the back of our mind and make sure we don't let it happen again."
And with the Blue Jackets in town Friday, the Pens have been preparing over the last two days of practice to ensure they have a better outcome.
"We worked on a lot of our battles and breakouts," defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. "A lot of it is kind of getting better. After our last game (a 4-2 win over Nashville), we have a lot to build on. We found things we can get better at. It was definitely nice having these two days of practice to be able to work on things."
Having seen the Blue Jackets once, they now know what to expect from them. The Pens players agreed that what makes them dangerous is how balanced their lineup is.
"They're a team that likes to roll four lines and they don't rely on one line or two lines to get their scoring," goalie Matt Murray said. "They spread it out throughout four lines and that's dangerous when teams are just rolling lines over the boards and keep coming at you and coming at you. It's hard to get momentum against a team like that. You got to stay on your toes all the time.
"They've got great D as well. (Sergei) Bobrovsky is obviously one of the best in the league right now. They just have a really balanced team and they can hurt you in a lot of different ways."
That all being said, the Pens weren't completely displeased with their effort through the first two periods of that first meeting. They were down 3-1 after 40 until the Jackets scored four times in a span of 3:40 to take a huge lead.
"The game was a two-goal game in the beginning of the third period and then just got away from us," forward Nick Bonino said. "We've beat them plenty of times to know we're a good enough team to beat them. We don't need motivation. I'm sure they don't. It's just going to be a good game between two good teams."
But while the Pens do want retribution, more importantly, they want a big two points in the standings. Washington ranks first in the intense Metro Division with 74 points, Columbus is in second place with 70 and Pittsburgh trails them both with 67.
"It's a big game. We know that the playoff implications are huge," forward Matt Cullen said. "And obviously there's a bit of a rivalry there. We're not happy with how things have gone up to this point against them. So yeah, it's a big game. But, most importantly, you look at the standings and that speaks for itself."
"At the end of the day it's a division rival who is a possible playoff opponent who we obviously don't like," forward Eric Fehr said with a smile. "It's not going to be difficult to get up for the game."