The Columbus Blue Jackets are ready and excited for the opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup.
The Columbus Blue Jackets clinched their second-ever berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with last Wednesday's 3-1 win over the Dallas Stars, and by defeating the Florida Panthers last Friday, they locked up the first wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.
By being the first wildcard team, the Blue Jackets avoided playing the President's Trophy winner, the Boston Bruins, in the first round. However, they drew the Metropolitan Division champion Pittsburgh Penguins, a team who defeated the Blue Jackets in all five of their matchups this season.
Even with their recent history against the Penguins, the Blue Jackets are ready to get the series underway, starting with tonight's game at the Consol Energy Center in the Steel City.
"It's just exciting," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "We're excited for the opportunity to play in the playoffs. It's something you have to earn, and I thought our players went out and earned it this year.
"Now, we've got the opportunity to play, to me, one of the premiere teams in the league, a team that has talented players. They want to win, and they're well-coached. We get to go in their building, and we're 0-5 against them, and that's probably going to be discussed, but I thought four out of the five were very good hockey games."
The Blue Jackets enter the postseason winners of four of their last five games, including a scrappy 3-2 victory over two-time Olympic Gold Medal goaltender Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers in Miami in the season finale.
"He's a world-class goaltender, so it's going to be hard to get goals on that guy, but we stuck with it, found a way to win, and that's what good teams do," right winger Cam Atkinson said.
"We had a choice. If we wanted to win, we'd play Pit, and if we lost, we'd play Boston. The guys wanted to play Pit. I think we owe them more than anything, and it's good to get a win at the end of the regular season and into the playoffs.
"We're going to have some fun, prepare for Pittsburgh. It's going to be a tough series, but we're ready for it, we're excited and I can't wait."
Although the Blue Jackets lost four of those five games to Pittsburgh by two goals or less, including a one-goal setback to the Penguins at Nationwide Arena on Mar. 28, they are out to change the course of history, as they look not only for their first-ever playoff series win, but the first postseason victory in franchise history.
When the Blue Jackets made the playoffs back in 2009, they were swept by their then Western Conference foe, the Detroit Red Wings.
"It's a great opportunity for us to play against a great hockey club who has had success before in winning a Stanley Cup a few years back," Blue Jackets center, and leading goal-scorer, Ryan Johansen said. "It's going to be a great learning experience for us, and we're really excited to get started.
"I can't wait to get into Pittsburgh and get it started."