The next edition of Columbus' biggest rivalry matchup takes place tonight at Nationwide Arena.
14–7–4 (32 points)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
7 P.M. – FRIDAY, NOV. 29
FOX SPORTS OHIO
FOX SPORTS GO
It's been a while since the Blue Jackets and Penguins last met, but how could we forget it? Pittsburgh ran through the Blue Jackets and poor Elvis Merzlikins, making his first career start, in a 7-2 rout and it was over not long after it began. Not much went right for the Blue Jackets that night, but they got their feet under them in the weeks that followed.
We're at the U.S. Thanksgiving bench mark now, and the Blue Jackets are seven points out of a wild-card position in the Eastern Conference at 10-10-4. The short version of that is: not good. They've got a lot of work to do, and after a disappointing 3-2 loss at home to Philadelphia on Wednesday, the Blue Jackets can't afford to let points go begging against Metropolitan Division opponents. If they can't get up for this game, well, they've got bigger problems.
And while the Penguins have been far from perfect this season – they have some goaltending issues, to say the least – they've found a way to keep climbing. Their offense has been humming along and they won a game two nights ago despite giving up six goals. Yes, that was an 8-6 win over the Vancouver Canucks. Yes, the Penguins can score goals.
The Blue Jackets, as we know, have had to manufacture offense this season. Their power play has only recently come back to the surface after two years on the ocean floor, but it still hasn't been enough of a spark to win close games like last weekend's in Winnipeg.
Here's a look at tonight's projected lines for the Blue Jackets:
- Response needed. The Blue Jackets are in a stretch where they'll place 10 of 15 games against teams in their division (this is one of them), so if they have designs on making a move in the standings, this would be it. They let two valuable points get away from them on Wednesday night, and they can ill afford to follow a similar penalty-filled script tonight against the Penguins.
- A watchful eye. John Tortorella did not like Sonny Milano's careless interference penalty on Wednesday, and even more so, Josh Anderson's first-period slashing penalty. Anderson didn't play the remainder of the first period against the Flyers (only 1:26 TOI in the opening frame) and that's compounded by his goal-scoring woes. The Blue Jackets need these two guys, Anderson in particular, to start supplying some offense.
- Take care of business. Yes, this is a rivalry game. But it's one of 82 on the schedule. The Blue Jackets need points regardless of opponent and they need to stay out of the box. There's no better time to get back on track than against the Penguins.