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Penguins notebook: Few faces remain from 2014 matchup with Blue Jackets

| Sunday, April 16, 2017, 7:03 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin takes the puck from the Blue Jackets' Zach Werenski in the second period in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series Sunday, April 16, 2017, at Nationwide Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Sidney Crosby consoles goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury after the Blue Jackets first goal in the first period in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series Sunday, April 16, 2017, at Nationwide Arena.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In the grand scheme of things, very little time has passed between Penguins playoff games in Columbus.

Before Sunday, the team's previous trip to Nationwide Arena came April 28, 2014. Evgeni Malkin had a hat trick, and the Penguins beat the Blue Jackets, 4-3, to finish off a first-round playoff series in six games.

Surprisingly, the Penguins roster — not to mention coaching staff and front office — has turned over almost completely in the three years since.

Malkin is one of four Penguins players from that 2014 lineup to dress for Sunday's game. Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury and Olli Maatta were the others.

Columbus, meanwhile, has had a little less turnover. Seven of their players Sunday played Game 6 in 2014.

For either team, it's hard to imagine a lot of long-term continuity or institutional knowledge of previous playoff encounters has built up.

“I think there's a fair amount of turnover in the league,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “I think the rules that govern the game have something to do with that. All we can do is control what we can and coach the people that we have and do the best job we can to become a team. That's what we've done.”

Butting heads

With the Blue Jackets committed to playing a hard, physical game and Penguins winger Patric Hornqvist committed to getting to the net as much as he can, confrontations between the two warring factions are inevitable.

Not that it will stop the Blue Jackets from becoming incensed by his actions at times. Hornqvist said before Sunday's game that it's just business, nothing personal.

“I would never try to touch (the goaltender) to start a scrum,” Hornqvist said. “Obviously I would want to score goals. Sometimes he gets the puck before me, and maybe I would slash him.”

A slash like that would inevitably lead to a post-whistle scrum. Hornqvist said the scrums he's in with the Blue Jackets are no more violent than any other team.

“I think they're all the same in the playoffs,” Hornqvist said.

Suspension fallout

Matt Calvert was out of the lineup for the Blue Jackets, serving the one-game suspension he earned for cross-checking Tom Kuhnhackl late in Game 2.

He was replaced by Sonny Milano, a creative winger who led the AHL's Cleveland Monsters in scoring this season.

Columbus coach John Tortorella declined to opine on the severity of the punishment, but he did say Calvert's absence from the lineup would be felt.

“(Calvert) has been playing well, kills penalties. He's a good player, a checker who scored one of the goals in our series,” Tortorella said. “We'll miss him.”

Defending Crosby

While Tortorella has long made it a point to match up center Brandon Dubinsky with Sidney Crosby as much as possible, the Blue Jackets coach said his efforts to defend the Penguins captain pretty much end there.

“There are elite players on all teams, and he is one of the best players in the game, but I think with players like that, you're just trying to limit them. You're never going to stop them,” Tortorella said. “But to change your defense or your coverages, it's way too instinctive of a game. We don't know what he's going to do on a certain play. You can't map out like in football on the sidelines, with a 3-4 defense.

“You look at their power play. It's a bunch of moving parts and they're playing. You certainly have to be aware. You want to try to get the right people out against him. You just try to limit him as best you can, as you do with all really good offensive players.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter at @BombulieTrib.

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