(SportsNetwork.com) - The Columbus Blue Jackets carry a lengthy shutout streak
into Monday's game in Pittsburgh, but it could prove difficult to put up
another zero against the high-scoring Penguins.
The Blue Jackets enter tonight's tilt at CONSOL Energy Center with a shutout
streak of 137 minutes, 45 seconds, dating back to the third period of a 3-1
loss in Boston on Nov. 30. Columbus followed that setback against the Bruins
with a 1-0 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday before notching a 4-0 triumph Friday
Columbus has posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time since Nov. 2010.
The franchise record for shutout streaks is 199:19.
Curtis McElhinney has seen action in the last two shutout wins for Columbus,
taking over for an injured Sergei Bobrovsky in the third period of the Tampa
Bay game before stopping all 20 shots in a start against the Wild on Friday.
With reigning Vezina Trophy winner Bobrovsky out for several weeks due to a
groin strain, McElhinney is the de facto No. 1 netminder in Columbus with Mike
McKenna serving as the backup.
"It felt great out there tonight," said McElhinney after Friday's win. "The
guys did a real good job keeping them away from the front and did some hard
work when we were killing penalties."
R.J. Umberger and Nick Foligno posted a goal and an assist against Minnesota,
while Cam Atkinson and Boone Jenner also scored for the Blue Jackets, who have
won three of four.
"It's been a good couple of games we've had here," said Umberger. "We've been
putting a lot of hard work in practice, working on the power play and defense
a lot and it's starting to pay off."
In addition to the Bobrovsky injury, the Blue Jackets are also currently
without forwards Marian Gaborik (knee), Nathan Horton (shoulder) and Jared
Boll (foot). Defenseman James Wisniewski joined the group of injured Columbus
players after sustaining an upper-body injury in Friday's victory. Wisniewski
is expected to miss at the least the next two games.
McElhinney expects to start again tonight and he'll face a Pittsburgh club
that ranks sixth in the NHL in scoring with an average of 3.03 goals per
game this season. The Pens also have dominated this series in recent years,
taking three straight, five of six and seven of the last nine encounters with
the Blue Jackets.
Pittsburgh, which boasts an impressive 12-3-0 mark in the Steel City this
season, has won its last two home games against Columbus and is 6-2-0 all-time
as the host in this series.
The Pens had won five straight before suffering a late collapse in Saturday's
3-2 regulation loss at Boston. The game also featured a couple of ugly
incidents in the opening period, and one of them could lead to Pittsburgh
forward James Neal missing tonight's game due to a suspension.
David Krejci and Zdeno Chara scored goals 1:16 apart late in regulation for
the Bruins, giving Boston a 3-2 edge. Chara's tally with 13 seconds remaining
handed the B's their first lead of the game. Neal and Chris Kunitz accounted
for Pittsburgh's goals on Saturday, while Marc-Andre Fleury took the loss
after making 18 saves.
Saturday's game, however, is likely to be remembered more for a pair of ugly
incidents in the first period rather than the way it ended.
During a scrum which was created by a kneeing call to Neal against defenseless
Boston winger Brad Marchand with 8:54 remaining in the first period, Bruins
forward Shawn Thornton grabbed Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik from behind
and punched him twice, the second time as the veteran blueliner was on the
Medical personnel were immediately summoned, and the 33-year-old Pittsburgh
blueliner was completely immobilized before being loaded onto a stretcher and
taken away for evaluation. Following the game, Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma
reported that Orpik was out of the hospital and was able to travel back home
with his teammates. He is sidelined indefinitely with a concussion and has
been placed on injured reserve.
Thornton drew a match penalty for his actions -- apparently in retribution for
a clean but hard hit Orpik laid on Bruins forward Loui Eriksson early in the
game. Thornton faces an in-person disciplinary hearing with the league,
meaning he could face a suspension of greater than five games for his actions.
Neal, meanwhile, will have a phone hearing on Monday to discuss a possible
punishment for his kneeing incident and the ruling could come down before this
evening's contest. Because he's only facing an in-person hearing, any
suspension Neal receives would be five games or less.
The Penguins played without Evgeni Malkin Saturday and the star forward is
questionable for Monday's game with a lower-body injury, Malkin is second in
the league to his teammate Sidney Crosby in scoring this season, registering
37 points on seven goals and 30 assists. Crosby is pacing the NHL with 42
points on 15 goals and 27 helpers.
The Sports Network