32–14–8 (72 points; .667%)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
6:00 P.M. – SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27TH
Bally Sports Ohio
ESPN+ (Out Of Market)
Injuries and a busy week of tough games finally caught up to the Columbus Blue Jackets with a 4-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night.
The defeat snapped a four-game winning streak for the Blue Jackets, which had been tied for the longest active such streak in the league.
When they battle the Pittsburgh Penguins from Nationwide Arena for an early 6:00 p.m. start, the club will have the chance to start a new streak — and finish the toughest four-game stretch of the season with an improbable 3-1 mark.
The Blue Jackets picked up wins over the Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers to start the stretch, scoring ten goals in the two victories. Toronto and Florida are 4th and 5th in the league by point percentage, while Carolina ranks 2nd and Sunday's game against Pittsburgh will see Columbus go up against the team ranked 6th in said category.
"We have to be ready for the next one," said defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov after Friday's loss. Gavrikov was on the top defensive pairing both Thursday and Friday, as Zach Werenski was out with an undisclosed injury. Head coach Brad Larsen was noncommittal Friday regarding Werenski's status for Sunday.
That 'next one' will also give the Blue Jackets another chance to defeat the Penguins, who won 5-2 at Nationwide Arena in mid-January. Winning Sunday would also give Columbus their first win over Pittsburgh this decade — it hasn't happened since November 29th, 2019.
|PACES & PROJECTIONS|
|39.4%||MONEYPUCK'S ODDS TO WIN||60.6%|
|47.0%||THE 538'S ODDS TO WIN||53.0%|
|86.7||82-GAME POINT PACE||109.3|
It's a quick turn-around for the Penguins, who played Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh and defeated the New York Rangers 1-0. Evgeni Malkin's power play goal in the third period was enough, as All-Star goaltender Tristan Jarry stopped all 27 New York shots. The win stopped a three-game losing streak for Pittsburgh, who were outscored 14-5 during that stretch — including a nasty 6-1 home loss to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.
Jarry's Saturday start likely puts Casey DeSmith in net for the Penguins. DeSmith started against Columbus last month, but was pulled during the first intermission after allowing two goals on 12 shots. Jarry entered and played a flawless final 40 minutes.
Sidney Crosby picked up a hat trick in the game on an empty-netter in the final two minutes. Crosby has 15 goals on the season to go with 33 assists and is second on the team with 48 points, behind only Jake Guentzel's 52. Guentzel leads the Penguins in goals (25), well ahead of Bryan Rust, who is second with 18.
Jarry's goaltending, along with the Penguins defense, has pushed Pittsburgh near the top of the division. For the season, Pittsburgh ranks 4th in goals allowed (2.61) and 3rd in the penalty kill (85.7%).
Elvis Merzlikins was activated from the injured reserve list Friday and is likely between the pipes Sunday, giving Jean-Francois Berube a much-needed break after the 30-year-old started four games in a stretch of six nights after four years out of the league. Merzlikins would be making just his second career start against the Penguins — the other was Elvis' first-ever start in the NHL, in which he allowed seven goals on 40 shots in October of 2019. The Pens had five second period goals en route to a 7-2 victory. That was a very different Elvis, though. This one should be up for the task.
The Blue Jackets four-game win was snapped, but so was Patrik Laine's 11-game point streak in Friday's shutout loss. Laine had an incredible run: 13 goals, 8 assists, 21 points, a plus/minus of +7, no penalty minutes, and a 36.1% shooting clip. All streaks must come to an end — look for Laine to start a new one Sunday.
|29||Patrik Laine||38||Boone Jenner||93||Jakub Voracek|
|16||Max Domi||34||Cole Sillinger||59||Yegor Chinakhov|
|14||Gus Nyquist||7||Sean Kuraly||28||Oliver Bjorkstrand|
|23||Brendan Gaunce||96||Jack Roslovic||17||Justin Danforth|
|44||Vladislav Gavrikov||2||Andrew Peeke|
|46||Dean Kukan||27||Adam Boqvist|
|5||Gavin Bayreuther||53||Gabriel Carlsson|
|90||Elvis Merzlikins||30||J-F Berube|
*SUBJECT TO CHANGE