Playoff Scenarios Abound as Penguins Try for Season Sweep of Jackets

Wednesday, April 4, 2018 4:37 PM UTC

Wednesday, Apr. 4, 2018 4:37 PM UTC

Home-ice advantage in a potential first-round playoff matchup is on the line Thursday night (7 ET) as Columbus plays its home regular-season finale against Pittsburgh.

<h2 style="text-align:center;"><a href=""><strong>Pittsburgh (96 points) at Columbus (96 points)</strong></a></h2><h2 style="text-align:center;">Free NHL Pick: Penguins (&amp; Over)</h2><h2 style="text-align:center;">Best Line Offered: <a href=";book=BetOnline" rel="nofollow">BetOnline</a></h2><p>[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":3217104, "sportsbooksIds":[1096,999991,169,118,19], "LineTypeId":2, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]</p><p>Busy 12-game slate around the NHL on Thursday night and few are bigger than Pittsburgh visiting Columbus in their final meeting this season – or is it? <a href="">It’s a 7 p.m. ET puck drop from Nationwide Arena.</a></p><p>The Penguins go for the four-game regular-season sweep, although two of them were decided in a shootout. The one in Columbus was also the most recent meeting on Feb. 18, a 5-2 Pittsburgh victory. The Pens, playing their third game in four days at the time, won despite being outshot by the Blue Jackets 37-23.</p><p>Evgeni Malkin leads Pittsburgh with five points (2 goals, 3 assists) vs. Columbus and Jake Guentzel has four (2 goals, 2 assists). Sidney Crosby hasn’t found the net but has two helpers. Matt Murray is 2-0-0 with a 2.77 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. Rookie Tristan Jerry started the other game.</p><p>Artemi Panarin leads Columbus with five points vs. Pittsburgh, four of them goals. No other player has multiple goals. Sergei Bobrovsky is 0-1-2 with a 3.47 GAA and .891 SV. Not typical numbers for one of the NHL’s best netminders.</p><p style="text-align:center;">[/]{"component":"video", "type":"youtube", "url":"", "videoSize":"Large" }[/]</p><h2>Jostling For Position In The Metro</h2><p>Were the playoffs to start today, these teams would play in the first round as Pittsburgh is second in the Metropolitan Division – the Capitals already have clinched that – and the Blue Jackets third (Pens win tiebreaker). Columbus is looking to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time in franchise history. The Jackets lost in five to the Penguins in the first round last year.</p><p>Columbus clinches a playoff spot with a victory (or OT/shootout loss; or Panthers loss to Boston) and would claim home-ice advantage in the first round with a win here – the franchise has never had home ice in the postseason -- and then Saturday at the NHL’s best team, Nashville. The Jackets could catch a break in that the Predators might have squat to play for by then as they are close to wrapping up the Presidents’ Trophy. The Penguins close at home Friday against a bad Ottawa team. Pittsburgh clinches home-ice advantage in the first round with a regulation win here and a New Jersey Devils home loss vs. Toronto.</p><p>Pittsburgh has the rest advantage for this one as it has been off since losing 3-1 at home to Washington on Sunday – that was the clinching game for the Capitals. The Penguins have the top power play in the NHL but went 0-for-5 with the man advantage. Big trade acquisition Derick Brassard missed his third straight game with a lower-body injury. He has three goals and five assists in 14 games with Pittsburgh since he was acquired from Ottawa.</p><p>There will be one familiar face for the Penguins in a Blue Jackets uniform: defenseman Ian Cole. He was a key part of the past two Stanley Cup champion teams but was traded to Ottawa in the Brassard deal (also included Vegas) in late February. The Senators then flipped him a few days later to Columbus.</p><p>[/]{"component": "embedHTML", "code": "&lt;blockquote class=\"twitter-tweet\" data-lang=\"en\"&gt;&lt;p lang=\"en\" dir=\"ltr\"&gt;.&lt;a href=\"\"&gt;@18Dubois&lt;/a&gt; sealed the &lt;a href=\";amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw\"&gt;#CBJ&lt;/a&gt; comeback! &lt;a href=\"\"&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p&gt;— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) &lt;a href=\"\"&gt;April 4, 2018&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/blockquote&gt;\n&lt;script async src=\"\" charset=\"utf-8\"&gt;&lt;/script&gt;\n"}[/]</p><p>The Blue Jackets have fallen behind in their past two games 4-1 yet forced overtime in each. They lost Saturday in Vancouver but won Tuesday vs. Detroit. Panarin scored on a rebound late in regulation to tie it vs. the Wings and assisted on Pierre-Luc Dubois' winner 2:55 into OT. Panarin now has 80 points, setting a franchise single-season record.</p><p>I see no reason to go against Pittsburgh for a<a href=""> Thursday NHL pick.</a> The Pens are 24-11 vs. Columbus this decade and 10-7 on the road, winning by an average score of in Columbus by 3.4-3.1. Eight of Pittsburgh’s past 10 games overall have gone ‘over’ the total as have seven of Jackets’ past 10. Thus, a lean that way as well.</p>
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