COLUMBUS, OH – DECEMBER 22: Scott Wilson
Tonights clash of rivals will determine if the Columbus Blue Jackets can secure home ice advantage in the playoffs.
Tonight is a massive showdown for both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Columbus Blue Jackets. The two have identical records, 45-29-6, and the winner of tonights matchup will likely have home ice advantage in the first round.
The loser, could presumably fall to the first or even second wild card slot. The playoff standings are that tight. The New Jersey Devils are just one point behind both the Pens and the Jackets. The Philadelphia Flyers are only two points back.
The Pens are coming into Columbus having not played since Sunday when they lost 3-1 in Washington D.C. The Jackets of course are rolling after their massive comeback agains the Detroit Red Wings.
With the standings so tight tonights matchup will set the playoff stage in the east if the game is decided in regulation. Though that is not a likely scenario as two of the three games between these two teams has gone to overtime or a shootout.
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Home ice advantage is huge when we are discussing the possibility of these two teams meeting in the playoffs. The Penguins are almost unbeatable at home but are dreadful on the road. Their 16-20-4 record on the road is the second worst of any team that will make the playoffs.
Both teams will be starting their number one goalies tonight in Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Murray. Bob has been incredible over the last month while Murray is struggling of late. The Pens have been using Casey DeSmith more frequently. The Jackets will look to pounce on Murray early and get DeSmith some playing time tonight.
Possible Anderson Return
After missing the last month of play, Josh Anderson could make his return tonight against the Penguins. Anderson, who is suffering from a knee sprain, has been skating with the team and practiced with the team yesterday. His return would likely mean him slotting in on the third line which would make this team incredibly deep.
Anderson on the third or fourth line would mean that the Jackets have a legit goal scorer on three lines. That type of depth is tough to counter defensively. The Penguins might be the only team in the east that can counter that.
I expect Markus Nutivaara to still be out tonight dealing a significant blow to the defensive corps of the Columbus Blue Jackets. They will again rely on Jack Johnson who has been incredibly shaky all season long.
The massive metro matchup tonight will be a playoff type atmosphere in Nationwide Arena and a must watch game. A win for the Columbus Blue Jackets would put their confidence at a season high level and more importantly, guarantee them a playoff spot.
Strap in folks and enjoy the ride. This is going to be a great game.
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