The Pittsburgh Penguins (40-23-6) will continue on their three-game road trip when they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets (33-22-15) Their game is scheduled for Thursday night with puck drop at 7 pm Eastern Time. This will be an important match between these two Metropolitan Division teams, as they’re both in critical positions in the final push of the season. The Penguins are currently ranked 3rd in the Metro and 5th in the Eastern Conference with 86 points, while the Blue Jackets are 5th in the Metro and 8th in the East and have 81 points. Thursday will be the fourth and final meeting of the regular season between these teams, with their last one taking place on December 12th of last year. There weren’t any goals within the 60 minutes of regular play, and it took more than half of overtime to decide the match. In the end, the Penguins scored and took the 1-0 victory. Currently, the season series is 2-1 in Pittsburgh’s favor.
Penguins Struggle In Final StretchIn recent years, there hasn’t been much of a question on if the Penguins will make an appearance in the playoffs. For the past 13 consecutive seasons, they’ve made it into the lineup, and in recent years they’ve almost always been within the top three of their division. That streak might end if they don’t work themselves out of whatever funk they’re currently in. While the Penguins do rank 3rd in the Metro, their recent play has been allowing teams lingering behind them to close the gap between them. Out of their last ten games, they’ve only won three. They’ve also recently been on a six-game losing streak, which is by far their worst of the season.
Previously the most they had lost in a row was three. Before their most recent game, it seemed as if they were due for another slide, as they lost two in a row. However, on Wednesday night they found victory over the New Jersey Devils. When the final buzzer sounded the score was 5-2 in the Pen’s favor, with two of the Penguins’ five goals belonging to just one player. Pittsburgh opened up scoring in the game, with Evan Rodrigues scoring just a few minutes before the halfway mark in the first period. The Pens wouldn’t score again until the second period, where Justin Schultz was the lone player to find the back of the net during that twenty-minute stretch. The rest of the Penguins’ scoring took place during the third period. Evgeni Malkin scored his 24th and 25th goals of the season within several minutes of each other, while Kris Letang put the final nail in the coffin for the Devils with just a few minutes to go. Letang and Malkin both had one assist each that night. In net for Pittsburgh was Matt Murray, who stopped 20 of 22 shots faced for a .909 save percentage.
Blue Jackets First Team To Close Arena To FansOn Wednesday afternoon, the Columbus Blue Jackets announced that, for the time being, all home games would be restricted to players and staff, as well as certain members of the media. This is in response to the Ohio governor issuing an order against spectator games due to concern about the coronavirus outbreak. While the San Jose Sharks are also expected to play several games without any spectators due to a similar ban in their county, the Jackets will be the first team to see that be a reality. A lack of fans in the arena shouldn’t be the Blue Jackets’ number one concern, though. They are just barely holding onto the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference, and a single win or loss from them or several other teams could knock them out of it. Some of these woes can certainly be attributed to an eight-game losing streak they went on recently, which sent them spiraling down to where they currently sit in the playoff race.
Much like their pcoming opponent, they have only won three out of their last ten matches. Luckily for them, their most recent game resulted in one of those wins, even if it wasn’t against a division or even a conference rival. They faced off against the Vancouver Canucks to cap off a three-game Canadien road trip. It was a close match, but after 60 minutes the Jackets had a 2-1 victory and a pair of points to take back home to Ohio. Both of the Jackets’ goals came in the second period. The first was from Emil Bemstrom, who scored just a little past seven minutes into the matchup for his 10th of the season. The second goal came from Eric Robinson, who found the back of the net in the last 30 seconds of the second period. The Canucks would close the gap to one goal in the third, but Columbus held them off for the only victory of their road trip. Between the pipes for the Jackets was Elvis Merzlikins. He only allowed 1 goal on 27 shots for a .963 save percentage in his return game.
- The Blue Jackets are 17-3-2 when scoring first at home.
- The Blue Jackets are 12-8 overall in one-goal games.
- The Penguins are 7-14-1 when their opponent scores first on the road.
- The Penguins are 22-14-4 overall when outshooting their opponent.