NHL Hockey

Powered-up Blue Jackets host Penguins

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins have made their deals, and now they will get to know each other pretty well.

The teams meet Tuesday night in Columbus, Ohio, in what will be the first of three meetings in 12 days, games that could help shape where they finish in the tight Metropolitan Division -- or if they make the playoffs at all.

The Blue Jackets, who are 7-4 this month, appear to be making a strong push toward a long postseason run, drawing a lot of attention around the league for their work before Monday's trade deadline.

In a series of deals leading up to and including Monday, they acquired center Matt Duchene, winger Matt Dzingel, defenseman Adam McQuaid and goaltender Keith Kinkaid.

They also retained winger Artemi Panarin and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, pending unrestricted free agents who were the subjects of widespread trade speculation.

"We want to go for it," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "We want to give our team a chance to compete for a playoff spot first and then go as deep as we can.

"We have a good team. We want to win this spring. We want to prove to our fan base that we're serious about winning. We're in it to win it."

Bobrovsky was named the NHL's No. 3 star of the week after going 2-1-0 with a 1.01 goals-against average and two shutouts last week.

The Penguins, meanwhile, already had made deals this season to bring in forwards Nick Bjugstad, Jared McCann and Tanner Pearson, as well as defenseman Marcus Pettersson.

That might have been it -- except for two things.

Both members of Pittsburgh's top defensive pairing -- Kris Letang (upper body) and Brian Dumoulin (concussion) -- were injured Saturday. So Pittsburgh landed veteran defensemen Erik Gudbranson from Vancouver for Pearson, and depth defenseman Chris Wideman from Florida just before the deadline.

The Penguins also recalled defenseman Zach Trotman, who will be in the lineup Tuesday, general manager Jim Rutherford said.

"We obviously have issues on defense with injuries," Rutherford said. "Even without the injuries, getting the type of player that Gudbranson is was something we've talked about for a while."

With defenseman Olli Maatta already out longer term with a suspected shoulder injury, that left the Penguins with just five healthy defensemen before the moves.

Rutherford and coach Mike Sullivan said Letang's injury should not be a long-term setback.

On top of the injuries, Pittsburgh is coming off two straight gut-check losses that left the team on the outside of the playoff picture entering trade deadline day, which enhanced the trade speculation.

On Thursday, the Penguins were critical of their performance in a 4-0 home loss against San Jose. Saturday, in an outdoor game at Philadelphia, they blew a two-goal lead late in the third period in a 4-3 overtime loss.

No. 1 goaltender Matt Murray has won two Stanley Cups, but this season he has been solid at times, leaky at others, including Saturday's loss.

"We would like to see him bring a little more consistency to his game. It's going to help us down the stretch," Sullivan said. "Matt is a really good goalie, and we believe in him."

--Field Level Media

Updated February 25, 2019

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