Penguins-Blue Jackets preview
Some news and notes, stats and quotes to get you ready for Game 6 tonight between the Penguins and the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena:
**The Penguins lead best-of-seven first-round playoff series, 3-2, and so can close it out with a win. Otherwise, Game 7 will be Wednesday at Consol Energy Center. Game 5, a 3-1 win, was the Penguins' best of the series, one in which the Blue Jackets have proved a worthy opponent. Game 6 figures to move up a gear or two. "As an elimination game for the opponent, they are going to bring another level of desperation," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "As the team trying to win the fourth game, you have to be ready to match that. I think it’s going to be the toughest-fought game. We have to have another level in our game in our desperation to get that fourth win to knock them out." Penguins center Sidney Crosby said it's about taking advantage of the situation. "When you have a chance to finish it, you want to make the most of it," Crosby said. "You understand that they’re going to be desperate, but, yeah, you get in this position, you want to make sure you do it."
**The Blue Jackets certainly aren't conceding. "t’s going to be unbelievable," forward Cam Atkinson said. "This crowd is amazing and really gets us going in the locker room. It’s just going to be a great atmosphere, and we’re looking forward to it. We got away from our game a little bit there [in Game 5]. We know what we’re capable of. We’re going to be ready to go tonight. We’re going to start out strong and pressure them and we’ll have success."
**The goaltending matchup remains Marc-Andre Fleury for the Penguins and Sergei Bobrovsky for Columbus. Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik did not participate in the morning skate, and it appears he will miss his second game in a row because of an unspecified injury. Winger Brian Gibbons, who was doing so well on Crosby's right wing before he got hurt, was on the ice for the Penguins skate, but he did not participate in line rushes.
**The Penguins showed their "regular" lines at the skate, but it's possible Bylsma will use Crosby and Evgeni Malkin together at least at times. That's a combination the Penguins used for most of Game 5. Bylsma said he will let the feel of the game dictate how he uses his forwards.
**The Penguins are 14-14 all-time in Game 6, 7-9 on the road. When the Penguins have won Game 5 after a series was tied, 2-2, they are 7-4 in Game 6. In NHL history, teams that win Game 5 after a 2-2 tie advance to the next round of the playoffs 79.5 percent of the time (182 of 229).
**The team that scores first in this season has lost every game. Game 5 was the only game so far not decided by one goal.
**The Penguins have gotten 19 points (four goals, 15 assists) from their defensemen. That's the most of any team's defense this postseason. That averages out to 3.8 points a game. Paul Martin has been strong in all areas. His eight points, all assists, leads all NHL defensemen this postseason.
**There are some lineup changes for Columbus, too. Winger R.J. Umberger, a native of Plum, Pa., in suburban Pittsburgh, will not play. He got a shoulder injury in Game 5. Jared Boll will dress instead. On defense, Nick Schultz will play instead of Nikita Nikitin. That appears to be a performance-based decision.
**The Blue Jackets have never won a playoff series. In their only other postseason appearance, they got swept in four games by Detroit in 2009.
**Columbus winger Nick Foligno has 11 points in his past 13 games (regular- and postseason) against the Penguins. The only goal in that total was the overtime winner in Game 4. ... Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky, while getting more attention for his defensive work this series, has eight points (one goal, seven assists) in his past eight playoff games. He is also tied for second in this postseason with 31 hits. ... Center Mark Letestu is winning 64 percent of his faceoffs in the series, and 71 percent on special teams draws. ... Center Ryan Johansen has 14 points (five goals, eight assists) in his past 11 games (regular- and postseason). ... Defenseman Jack Johnson leads the series with 20 blocked shots and in ice time at 145:16. He's also the only defenseman in the series to play all five games and not have a recorded giveaway.
**The Blue Jackets have outhit the Penguins, 252-159. Including the regular season, Columbus has outhit the Penguins in 11 games in a row.