One day after teammate Sidney Crosby reached a milestone, Evgeni Malkin vies for one of his own when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday in a battle for second place in the Metropolitan Division. Crosby hit the 1,000-point plateau in Thursday’s overtime win over against Winnipeg and Malkin looks to notch his 500th career assist versus Columbus.
The 30-year-old Russian has been in fine form since returning from a seven-game absence because of a lower-body injury, recording a goal and an assist in each of his two contests, and trails Crosby (64 points) by six points for the league lead. The Penguins are five points behind division-leading Washington and two ahead of the third-place Blue Jackets, who improved to 2-2-0 on their seven-game homestand with Wednesday’s 5-2 triumph over Toronto. Captain Nick Foligno has scored in each of his last two contests to reach the 20-goal mark for the second time in his career. Columbus has earned three of a possible four points against the Penguins thus far this season, rolling to a 7-1 victory at home Dec. 22 while dropping a 4-3 overtime decision in Pittsburgh earlier this month.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, NHL Network, Sportsnet, TVA, ROOT (Pittsburgh), FSN Ohio (Columbus)
LINE HISTORY: The Penguins money line opened at -106 and as of Friday morning had been bet to -122. As for the total it opened at 6 and has been bumped up a half-point to 6.5. Check out the complete line history here.
WHAT SHARPS SAY: “The Jackets are a hard team to figure out. They have been up and down since the winning streak, but wins in 2 of their last 3 have them continuing their fight in the Metro. The Penguins are on the back end of a road back to back won an overtime thriller Thursday night in Winnipeg” Covers Expert – Brandon Shively
WHAT BOOKS SAY: “There’s fairly balanced action but a bit of a lean on the Columbus puckline (-1.5) and Pittsburgh moneyline (+110). You don’t see many 6.5-goal totals but balanced action there too.” – SportsInteraction.com lines manager.
Penguins – D Justin Schultz (Questionable, upper body), D Olli Maatta (Questionable, hand), RW Bryan Rust (Out Indefinitely, arm), LW Carl Hagelin (Out Indefinitely, concussion)
Blue Jackets – LW Scott Hartnell (Questionable, lower body), RW David Clarkson (Out Indefinitely, back)
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (36-13-7-5-2 SU, 24-32 ATS, 35-17 O/U): Crosby registered a goal and two assists Thursday, with his first point of the night making him the 86th player in NHL history to reach 1,000. The 29-year-old, who temporarily overtook Edmonton’s Connor McDavid in the race for the Art Ross Trophy, hit the milestone in his 757th career game — making him the 12th fastest to accomplish the feat. Pittsburgh took a hit on the blue line in the win over the Jets as Justin Schultz and Olli Maatta went down with injuries in the second period, forcing the team to play with only four defensemen.
ABOUT THE BLUE JACKETS (36-15-4-1 SU, 30-26 ATS, 23-29 O/U): Oliver Bjorkstrand made an instant contribution Wednesday in his first game since being recalled from Cleveland of the American Hockey League, scoring his first goal of the season — which proved to be the game-winner — while earning the praise of his coach. “Through his game, I thought he checked well,” John Tortorella told reporters. “Part of the maturation of a young guy is how you play away from the puck. I thought he really showed a concentration there, and you can see his skill.” Columbus continues its homestand Sunday against Nashville, then has five days off before concluding it versus the New York Islanders.
ICE GIRLS BATTLE:
* Blue Jackets are 10-2 in their last 12 home games vs. a team with a losing road record.
* Under is 5-0 in Penguins last 5 games playing on 0 days rest.
* Under is 4-1 in Blue Jackets last 5 overall.
* Home team is 4-1 in the last 5 meetings.
* Penguins are 1-4 in the last 5 meetings in Columbus.
Check out a complete list of hot and cold trends, here.
COVERS CONSENSUS: 55 percent of the Covers public is siding with the home team Blue Jackets on the moneyline and 53 percent are on the Over. View full consensus data here.