Good afternoon from Nationwide Arena in Columbus. The Pens will continue their 9-game Metro Division swing tonight with a showdown against the rival Blue Jackets.
It will be the final meeting between these two teams this season. Pittsburgh is 5-1-3 in its last 9 games in Columbus.
The Pens are 1-1 on their current 9-game divisional stretch. They are 8-3-1 in their past 12 against the Metro.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets, despite sitting as a bottom-feeder in the standings, are 9-3-3 in their past 15. And Columbus will be getting their No. 1 goaltender back in Sergei Bobrovsky tonight. He will make the start after being activated from IR with a groin injury.
The Pens' 4 injured players were on the ice for the team’s morning skate. Beau Bennett (19, upper-body), Eric Fehr (17, lower-body), Carl Hagelin (2, illness) and Ben Lovejoy (9, upper-body) all skated.
Head coach Mike Sullivan said there has been no determination yet on their status for tonight’s game.
“They’ll be a game-time decision,” he said.
MORNING SKATE DEETS
The Pens held an optional morning skate. Four players took the option to not skate: forwards Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel and defensemen Kris Letang and Olli Maatta.
The team did not partake in line rushes.
The Pens and Blue Jackets have developed into one of the best rivalries, starting with their playoff showdown in 2014
The rivalry has only built with some bad blood between Brandon Dubinsky and Sidney Crosby. In case you forgot, Dubinsky was given a 1-game suspension for cross-checking Crosby in the back of the neck and then in his lower back while he lay prone on the ice.
“All the games we play are pretty intense, emotional and physical,” Crosby said. “It’s developed into one of the division rivalries. Playoffs has a lot to do with that. The fact that we’ve had close, intense games over the years has built that up.”
Sullivan served many years as an assistant coach under Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella. The two have a close relationship.
Tortorella even told the media this morning that Sullivan is a better coach than himself.
“My first thought is he’s correct,” Sullivan joked with a grin.
“The respect is mutual,” Sullivan continued. “I think he’s a terrific hockey coach. He does great things with his teams. I learned a lot in my years with him. We learned from each other. There is a mutual respect between the two of us.”