The second-place team will be the Penguins or Blue Jackets?

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The second-place team will be the Penguins or Blue Jackets?

Messaggiodi Helena il 5 aprile 2017, 7:47

Pittsburgh (48-19-11) hosts Columbus (49-21-8) on Tuesday night at PPG Paints Arena. While there is a slim chance one of them could overtake Washington for first place in the Metropolitan Division, it appears likely that the second-place Penguins and third-place Blue Jackets will meet in the first round of the playoffs beginning next week.
“It’s a big game for us, for sure,” Blue Jackets center Alexander Wennberg said.
“We know it’s going to be a big game,” Penguins winger Jake Guentzel said.
Washington has 112 points, Pittsburgh 107 and Columbus 106, each with four games remaining.
“I think we want to move up our division, hopefully get home ice,” Pittsburgh winger Conor Sheary said. “Every point is important.
“Washington’s going to be tough to catch if they keep winning, but (finishing ahead of) Columbus is definitely within reach. If we want to come into the first round with home ice, I think it’s important to keep playing hard and keep playing for two points.”
A decent rivalry between the clubs has blossomed since they both entered the Metropolitan Division, and considering the proximity of the cities. Games between them often have been rough and tumble.
The Blue Jackets spanked Pittsburgh 7-1 on Dec. 22 in Columbus. The teams’ two meetings since have both gone to overtime and produced a split.
The Penguins leapfrogged Columbus for that one-point edge Sunday when they beat Carolina 3-2 for their second straight win and the Blue Jackets lost their third in a row, against the Capitals.
This is Columbus’ first three-game losing streak (0-2-1). It started against Carolina, a team that was making a desperate push to make the playoffs. After that came a stretch the Blue Jackets knew would be a test against Chicago, Washington and now Pittsburgh. Those three plus Columbus make up the top four teams in the overall NHL standings.
Columbus is expected to get winger Oliver Bjorkstrand back, coach John Tortorella said. Bjorkstrand practiced for the first time Monday and has missed six games because of an upper-body injury.
The Blue Jackets will be without impressive rookie defenseman Zach Werenski, who is day to day because of an upper-body injury that forced him to leave Sunday’s game, and center Lukas Sedlak, who is week to week after getting an upper-body injury Friday. The team recalled winger Sonny Milano, who is expected to play Tuesday, according to Tortorella.
Pittsburgh, which did not practice Monday, apparently got through Sunday’s win unscathed in terms of injuries but still have a busy training room. Among those hurt are top defenseman Kris Letang and star center Evgeni Malkin.
It seemed that the injuries might finally be taking a toll when the Penguins lost four games in a row (0-2-2), but their modest two-game winning streak followed.
Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella described center Lukas Sedlak (upper body injury) Authentic Alex Ovechkin Womens Jersey as “week to week,” which, we assume, is better than “year to year.”
Injuries, and their surrounding mysteries, are a big part of the narrative of tonight’s key Metropolitan Division showdown between the third-place Jackets and second-place Penguins – separated by one point in the standings – at Pittsburgh’s PPG Paints Arena.
Tortorella said Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski is “day to day,” although the tea leaves read has the star rookie, in a best-case scenario, back for the start of playoffs after suffering an apparent shoulder injury Sunday on a crushing check by Washington’s Alex Ovechkin.
“No whining,” said Tortorella, and that’s been the approach toward injuries by his friend and former assistant Mike Sullivan, now head coach of the Penguins.
Sullivan has calmly guided Pittsburgh through an onslaught of injuries to the point where the defending Stanley Cup champions are battling the Blue Jackets for home-ice advantage in what appears will be a first-round postseason matchup.
The NHL playoff format calls for teams that finish second and third in the division to play each other in the first round, and that’s where Pittsburgh (107 points) and Columbus (106 points) stand going into tonight’s game.
“We know it’s going to be a big game,” Penguins center Jake Guentzel told Pittsburgh reporters. “It’s going to set the tone if we play them in the playoffs.”
If the Washington Capitals (112 points) beat Toronto in regulation or overtime tonight and the Jackets beat Pittsburgh, then the Capitals will have earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
They are hopeful a potential third win in a row will have a little extra weight.
“A lot of signs point to us playing them in the first round,” Pittsburgh winger Bryan Rust said of the Blue Jackets. “If that does happen, (Tuesday) is a game that we’ve got to go out there and show them what we’ve got.”
This precursor between the Penguins and Blue Jackets could help determine where that first-round series between them would open. The second-place team will have home ice against the third-place club.
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