Blue Jackets-Penguins Preview
It took the reigning Vezina Trophy winner going down for the
Columbus Blue Jackets to record back-to-back shutouts for the first
time in more than three years.
They’ll have their hands full trying to make it three straight
Monday night when they visit the high-scoring Pittsburgh Penguins,
who may get one of their best offensive players back but will be
In Columbus’ 1-0 win over the Lightning on Tuesday, Curtis
McElhinney came off the bench when starter Sergei Bobrovsky
suffered a lower-body injury, stopping eight shots in the final
15:47 to secure the victory. McElhinney then turned away all 20
shots in a 4-0 victory over the Wild on Friday.
The Blue Jackets’ last back-to-back shutouts came in November
“It’s a good feeling for me to step in here again and have
another shutout game, another win,” McElhinney said. “Hopefully,
it’s the start of something good and we can keep it going.”
McElhinney will be in net a lot for the Blue Jackets in the near
future. The team placed Bobrovsky on injured reserve because of a
groin strain, and he is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
The Penguins (20-10-1) have injury issues of their own, as
defenseman Brooks Orpik had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher
during Saturday’s 3-2 loss in Boston after being pulled down and
punched by the Bruins’ Shawn Thornton. Orpik was alert when he
arrived at a local hospital and flew back home with the team, but
it’s unclear when he’ll be back on the ice.
He was placed on injured reserve Monday.
“I think (Orpik) was (unconscious) on the ice for a period of
time,” head coach Dan Bylsma told the team’s official website. “I
think that means he has a concussion, for sure.”
Pittsburgh blew a 2-1 lead in the final 90 seconds to lose in
regulation, but it wasn’t focused on the end of its five-game
“Everyone was kind of worried,” center Sidney Crosby said. “It’s
hard to think about hockey when you see someone get hurt like that,
especially a teammate and friend. We heard that he’s OK, doing
pretty good. But it was definitely tough.”
Pittsburgh will attempt to halt Columbus’ shutout streak with an
offense that averages an Eastern Conference-best 3.03 goals and
leads the league by scoring on 26.6 percent of its power play
chances, but it won’t have James Neal.
Neal was suspended five games Monday after a phone hearing for
striking Boston’s Brad Marchand with his knee while Marchand was on
the ice Saturday.
The Penguins may get the man who typically centers Neal’s line
back, however. Evgeni Malkin, five points behind Crosby for the
league scoring lead, took part in the morning skate Monday after
missing the previous two games with a lower-body injury.
Malkin and Neal are two of four Penguins with at least 20
points, while the Blue Jackets (12-14-3) have only one player, Ryan
Johansen, with that many. Johansen chipped in two assists and four
players scored Friday as Columbus won for the third time in four
“You could see the confidence start to grow on the team,” coach
Todd Richards said. “We did some good things, and that’s something
to build off of.”
The Penguins won both previous meetings this season, 4-2 in
Pittsburgh on Nov. 1 and 3-0 the next night in Columbus. Malkin had
three assists in the two games.