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Penguins vs. Blue Jackets Game Preview

Monday, 02.07.2011 / 7:00 PM / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
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Penguins vs. Blue Jackets Game Preview
Pittsburgh Penguins
Overall:
34-16-4-72
Home: 19-9-1-39
Road: 15-7-3-33

WHEN: Feb. 8, 2011 - 7:00 pm   |   WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center
WATCH:
FSN  |  LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
Columbus Blue Jackets
Overall:
25-22-5-55
Home: 13-12-1-27
Road:
12-10-4-29

  Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets 
 
      
Antoine Vermette
C -  #50
  12 Goals
  18 Assists
  30 Points
• Is dominating in the faceoff dot for the Blue Jackets – the center has taken almost 1,000 draws so far this season and has earned a 55.7-percent success rate, good for 16th in the NHL.

• Traded to Columbus from Ottawa on March 4, 2009, in exchange for goaltender Pascal Leclaire and a second-round pick (Robin Lehner) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

• Has recorded 109 points (46G-63A) in 150 career games since being traded to the Blue Jackets, compared to 167 points (80G-87A) in a total of 359 games with the Senators.
 
Derick Brassard
C  -  #16
  13 Goals
  22 Assists
  35 Points
• Has already surpassed his previous personal-best of 10 goals and is one point shy of tying his career-high of 36 points just 52 games into the season, totals that took him 79 games to reach last season in his first full NHL campaign.

• The smooth skater, known for his playmaking abilities, has been centering a line between Rick Nash and Jakub Voracek, and the three players have scored a combined total of 111 points this season (45G-66A).

• Earned the Mike Bossy Trophy as the QMJHL’s top draft prospect in 2006 before being drafted in the first round (sixth overall) by the Blue Jackets in that summer’s NHL Entry Draft.
 
Kristian Huselius
LW  -  #20
  11 goals
   7 assists 
  18 points
• Had been goalless in seven games and was a healthy scratch on Feb. 4 against Detroit before exploding for a pair of goals (including the game-winner) in Columbus’ 4-3 win over Edmonton on Feb. 5.

• The Swedish forward is in his third season with the Blue Jackets after playing a total of 359 games with Calgary and Florida from 2001-08.  

• Has recorded at least 20 goals in each of the four previous seasons, notching a career-best 34 goals in 2006-07 while with the Flames.
When the Penguins and the Blue Jackets last faced off on Dec. 4, Columbus ranked fourth in the Western Conference at that time. They’ve since fallen to 13th out of 15 squads, but still remain in playoff contention in an extremely tight postseason race out West, as just five points separate the Blue Jackets from eighth-place Los Angeles.

They’re led by the steady offensive production of veteran forwards Rick Nash and R.J. Umberger. Nash, the Blue Jackets’ captain and core of the team’s offense, has been posting points at a steady clip, entering the All-Star break on an eight-game scoring streak that extended to nine games with an assist in a 7-4 loss to Chicago on Feb. 1. Nash tallied 13 points (5G-8A) over the stretch, which tied his career-high and came one game shy of tying the franchise record of 10 games (set by Umberger earlier this season). Nash’s 23 goals leads the squad, which isn’t surprising, as he’s led the Blue Jackets in that category for each of the past six seasons.

Pittsburgh native Umberger has been enjoying arguably the best season of his career since entering the league in 2005. The left winger is fresh off a four-point effort in the Blue Jackets’ 4-3 win over Edmonton on Feb. 5, with his 19 goals and 38 points both ranking second on the squad. His linemate, center Antoine Vermette, has goals in three of his past six contests after being held scoreless over the previous 16. He's posted a 3-4-7 chart in his past eight games.

The team’s crop of talented young forwards have also been stepping up. The 23-year-old Derick Brassard has continued to be brilliant up top for Columbus while centering Nash and 21-year-old Jakub Voracek on the team’s top line. Brassard ranks third in goals (13) and points (35) for the Blue Jackets, with 12 of those points coming on the power play.

The Blue Jackets’ defense has been struggling, as their 3.08 goals-against average is fifth-worst in the league. But they have been getting some flashes of brilliance from goaltender Steve Mason, who won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 2009. The 22-year-old Mason backstopped the Blue Jackets to their first shutout at Joe Louis Arena in franchise history, as he made 34 saves en route to earning his second whitewashing of the season. He’s now 17-13-2 on the season and is 8-4-1 in his past 13 starts, earning two-straight wins.
  • Head coach Dan Bylsma enters tonight’s game with 99 career victories, leaving him one shy of becoming the third coach in franchise history to reach 100 (Eddie Johnson, 232; Michel Therrien, 135). He would become the fastest head coach in team history to reach 100 wins (162 games) with a win tonight. Bylsma would also become the fifth-fastest coach in NHL history to 100 wins, surpassing Washington’s Bruce Boudreau (164 games).
  • This is the second meeting between Pittsburgh and Columbus. The Penguins skated to a resounding 7-2 victory over the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Dec. 4, with Paul Martin and Sidney Crosby each notching a pair of goals in the win. Pittsburgh outshot Columbus 16-2 in the first period, allowing them to jump to a 4-0 lead after the first 20 minutes. That output was the Penguins’ second-highest one-period total this season, as they went on to notch five goals in the first on Jan. 5 against Tampa Bay.
  • In that game Martin’s goals were both unassisted, making him the first Penguin to accomplish that feat since Mario Lemieux did so against the Quebec Nordiques on March 27, 1988. Prior to Martin, the only other Penguins defenseman to score twice unassisted in the same game was Ab DeMarco on Feb. 24, 1974 at Chicago. Both of Martin’s goals also came on the power play, allowing Pittsburgh to finish the night 3 for 4 on the man-advantage.
  • Pittsburgh owns an 8-3-1 all-time record against the Blue Jackets, including a 4-1 mark in Pittsburgh. The Penguins have won three consecutive home games over Columbus, with their last loss occurring on March 11, 2002.
  • The Blue Jackets are one of just three Western Conference foes that the Penguins will play twice this season. Pittsburgh has already played Phoenix twice (earning a 4-3 win in Phoenix on Nov. 6 and a 6-1 win in Pittsburgh on Dec. 20) and defeated Detroit once by a score of 4-1 at CONSOL Energy Center on Jan. 18.
  • The Penguins are now 7-3-1 versus the West so far this season, with a perfect 3-0-1 mark against Central Division foes with wins over Nashville and Columbus and an overtime defeat to St. Louis. Pittsburgh is also 4-1 so far this season at CONSOL Energy Center against teams from the West.
  • The Blue Jackets tend to perform well against teams from the East. They’ve posted an 8-2-1 overall record against Eastern Conference teams so far this season, and have a 3-1-0 mark against Atlantic Division teams – that only loss coming against Pittsburgh on Dec. 4.

 

      
Be More Physical: The Penguins and the Blue Jackets are two of the most hard-hitting teams in the league. Pittsburgh’s ranked No. 2 with a total of 1,562 hits, while Columbus sits at No. 5 with 1,385 checks. The Penguins are led by the gritty Matt Cooke, whose 161 hits rank eighth (tied) in the NHL, while Derek Dorsett paces the Blue Jackets with 126 hits (tied for 29th in the league with Mike Rupp). The Penguins are at their best when they play a hard-hitting, grind-it-out style of hockey within their system, and will need to outbattle the gritty Blue Jackets in the physicality aspect of Tuesday’s game.


Win the Special Teams Battle: The Penguins came up short in the special teams battle against the Capitals – especially with the man-advantage – as Washington’s Marcus Johansson scored a shorthanded goal at the 3:58 mark of the third period. It will be especially crucial for Pittsburgh to reignite their power play against a Columbus squad, as the Penguins won on the strength of three power-play tallies in the two teams’ last meeting on Dec. 4. The Penguins’ No. 1-ranked penalty kill will face off with the Blue Jackets’ struggling power play, the third-worst in the league. Columbus has a 13.3-percent success rate with the man-advantage, connecting on just 26 of 196 opportunities. The Blue Jackets have also allowed a league-worst (tied) 10 shorthanded goals against.

F Arron Asham, upper body (day-to-day)
F Mike Comrie, injured reserve/hip (indefinitely)
C Sidney Crosby, injured reserve/mild concussion (indefinitely)
F Mark Letestu, lower body (4-6 weeks)
C Evgeni Malkin, torn ACL & MCL (indefinitely)
D Rostislav Klesla, knee (day-to-day)
LW Ethan Moreau, ribs (indefinitely)
 
 
 
 
G
Crosby (32) Nash (23)
A
Crosby/Letang (34) Voracek (23)
PTS
Crosby (65) Nash (44)
PIM
Cooke (96) Boll (134)
+/-
Letang (+21) Klesla (+10)
PP
Crosby (10) Three tied with (5)
SH
Three tied with (2)
Umberger (2)
W/L
Fleury (25-12-2) Mason (17-13-2)
GAA
Johnson (1.90) Garon (2.66)
SVP
Johnson (.929) Garon (.901)

Marc-Andre Fleury - With the Penguins dealing with a considerable amount of adversity with injuries to key players, Fleury has continued to string together outstanding performances and be the rock for his team. Fleury has given his teammates a chance to win every night, as he’s coming off a seven-game winning streak from Jan. 12 to Feb. 4, where he allowed just 12 goals while stopping 206 of 218 shots. He posted a 1.69 goals-against average and a .945 save percentage during the streak. While his stretch was snapped Sunday at Washington, Fleury still stood on his head for the Penguins during that game, coming up with several clutch saves in Pittsburgh’s 3-0 loss.
 
R.J. Umberger - The Pittsburgh native factored into all four goals in the Blue Jackets’ 4-2 win over Edmonton on Feb. 5, netting two goals and adding two assists for an impressive four-point effort. The Blue Jackets alternate captain has been smoldering for a while, as he enjoyed a four-game point streak prior to the All-Star break from Jan. 15-22, recording three goals and an assist over that span. Umberger’s 19 goals and 38 points through 52 games put him on pace to eclipse his previous career-highs of 26 goals and 55 points, set through 82 games in his first season with Columbus in 2008-09.
 
 
 
 


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WHEN: Feb. 8, 2010 - 7:00 pm
WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center
WATCH: FSN
LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM



SCOUTING REPORT

When the Penguins and the Blue Jackets last faced off on Dec. 4, Columbus ranked fourth in the Western Conference at that time. They've since fallen to 13th out of 15 squads, but still remain in playoff contention in an extremely tight postseason race out West, as just five points separate the Blue Jackets from eighth-place Los Angeles.

They're led by the steady offensive production of veteran forwards Rick Nash and R.J. Umberger. Nash, the Blue Jackets' captain and core of the team's offense, has been posting points at a steady clip, entering the All-Star break on an eight-game scoring streak that extended to nine games with an assist in a 7-4 loss to Chicago on Feb. 1. Nash tallied 13 points (5G-8A) over the stretch, which tied his career-high and came one game shy of tying the franchise record of 10 games (set by Umberger earlier this season). Nash's 23 goals leads the squad, which isn't surprising, as he's led the Blue Jackets in that category for each of the past six seasons.

Pittsburgh native Umberger has been enjoying arguably the best season of his career since entering the league in 2005. The left winger is fresh off a four-point effort in the Blue Jackets' 4-3 win over Edmonton on Feb. 5, with his 19 goals and 38 points both ranking second on the squad. His linemate, center Antoine Vermette, has goals in three of his past six contests after being held scoreless over the previous 16. He's posted a 3-4-7 chart in his past eight games.

The team's crop of talented young forwards have also been stepping up. The 23-year-old Derick Brassard has continued to be brilliant up top for Columbus while centering Nash and 21-year-old Jakub Voracek on the team's top line. Brassard ranks third in goals (13) and points (35) for the Blue Jackets, with 12 of those points coming on the power play.

The Blue Jackets' defense has been struggling, as their 3.08 goals-against average is fifth-worst in the league. But they have been getting some flashes of brilliance from goaltender Steve Mason, who won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 2009. The 22-year-old Mason backstopped the Blue Jackets to their first shutout at Joe Louis Arena in franchise history, as he made 34 saves en route to earning his second whitewashing of the season. He's now 17-13-2 on the season and is 8-4-1 in his past 13 starts, earning two-straight wins.


INTERESTING STATS

* Head coach Dan Bylsma enters tonight's game with 99 career victories, leaving him one shy of becoming the third coach in franchise history to reach 100 (Eddie Johnson, 232; Michel Therrien, 135). He would become the fastest head coach in team history to reach 100 wins (162 games) with a win tonight. Bylsma would also become the fifth-fastest coach in NHL history to 100 wins, surpassing Washington's Bruce Boudreau (164 games).

* This is the second meeting between Pittsburgh and Columbus. The Penguins skated to a resounding 7-2 victory over the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Dec. 4, with Paul Martin and Sidney Crosby each notching a pair of goals in the win. Pittsburgh outshot Columbus 16-2 in the first period, allowing them to jump to a 4-0 lead after the first 20 minutes. That output was the Penguins' second-highest one-period total this season, as they went on to notch five goals in the first on Jan. 5 against Tampa Bay.

* In that game Martin's goals were both unassisted, making him the first Penguin to accomplish that feat since Mario Lemieux did so against the Quebec Nordiques on March 27, 1988. Prior to Martin, the only other Penguins defenseman to score twice unassisted in the same game was Ab DeMarco on Feb. 24, 1974 at Chicago. Both of Martin's goals also came on the power play, allowing Pittsburgh to finish the night 3 for 4 on the man-advantage.

* Pittsburgh owns an 8-3-1 all-time record against the Blue Jackets, including a 4-1 mark in Pittsburgh. The Penguins have won three consecutive home games over Columbus, with their last loss occurring on March 11, 2002.

* The Blue Jackets are one of just three Western Conference foes that the Penguins will play twice this season. Pittsburgh has already played Phoenix twice (earning a 4-3 win in Phoenix on Nov. 6 and a 6-1 win in Pittsburgh on Dec. 20) and defeated Detroit once by a score of 4-1 at CONSOL Energy Center on Jan. 18.

* The Penguins are now 7-3-1 versus the West so far this season, with a perfect 3-0-1 mark against Central Division foes with wins over Nashville and Columbus and an overtime defeat to St. Louis. Pittsburgh is also 4-1 so far this season at CONSOL Energy Center against teams from the West.

* The Blue Jackets tend to perform well against teams from the East. They've posted an 8-2-1 overall record against Eastern Conference teams so far this season, and have a 3-1-0 mark against Atlantic Division teams – that only loss coming against Pittsburgh on Dec. 4.


KEYS TO THE GAME

Be More Physical: The Penguins and the Blue Jackets are two of the most hard-hitting teams in the league. Pittsburgh's ranked No. 2 with a total of 1,562 hits, while Columbus sits at No. 5 with 1,385 checks. The Penguins are led by the gritty Matt Cooke, whose 161 hits rank eighth (tied) in the NHL, while Derek Dorsett paces the Blue Jackets with 126 hits (tied for 29th in the league with Mike Rupp). The Penguins are at their best when they play a hard-hitting, grind-it-out style of hockey within their system, and will need to outbattle the gritty Blue Jackets in the physicality aspect of Tuesday's game.

Win the Special Teams Battle: The Penguins came up short in the special teams battle against the Capitals – especially with the man-advantage – as Washington's Marcus Johansson scored a shorthanded goal at the 3:58 mark of the third period. It will be especially crucial for Pittsburgh to reignite their power play against a Columbus squad, as the Penguins won on the strength of three power-play tallies in the two teams' last meeting on Dec. 4. The Penguins' No. 1-ranked penalty kill will face off with the Blue Jackets' struggling power play, the third-worst in the league. Columbus has a 13.3-percent success rate with the man-advantage, connecting on just 26 of 196 opportunities. The Blue Jackets have also allowed a league-worst (tied) 10 shorthanded goals against.


WHO'S HOT

Marc-Andre Fleury - With the Penguins dealing with a considerable amount of adversity with injuries to key players, Fleury has continued to string together outstanding performances and be the rock for his team. Fleury has given his teammates a chance to win every night, as he's coming off a seven-game winning streak from Jan. 12 to Feb. 4, where he allowed just 12 goals while stopping 206 of 218 shots. He posted a 1.69 goals-against average and a .945 save percentage during the streak. While his stretch was snapped Sunday at Washington, Fleury still stood on his head for the Penguins during that game, coming up with several clutch saves in Pittsburgh's 3-0 loss.

R.J. Umberger - The Pittsburgh native factored into all four goals in the Blue Jackets' 4-2 win over Edmonton on Feb. 5, netting two goals and adding two assists for an impressive four-point effort. The Blue Jackets alternate captain has been smoldering for a while, as he enjoyed a four-game point streak prior to the All-Star break from Jan. 15-22, recording three goals and an assist over that span. Umberger's 19 goals and 38 points through 52 games put him on pace to eclipse his previous career-highs of 26 goals and 55 points, set through 82 games in his first season with Columbus in 2008-09.



Author: Michelle Crechiolo

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