Blue Jackets appreciate Dubinsky's playoff mettle

| Thursday, April 24, 2014, 10:00 p.m.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Center Brandon Dubinsky has played in 498 NHL regular-season games, plus 35 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Columbus Blue Jackets linemates Cam Atkinson and Matt Calvert have a combined 202 regular-season and postseason games.

“Me and (Calvert), we just try to keep up with him,” Atkinson said. “He leads the way, and we follow.”

A lot of Blue Jackets have been following the lead of the 28-year-old Dubinsky.

The emotional leader has inspired the upstart team to tie the best-of-seven, first-round series against the Penguins, 2-2. Game 5 is Saturday at Consol Energy Center.

Dubinsky was mobbed after he tied Game 4 in Columbus at 3-3 with 24 seconds left in the third period Wednesday, when goalie Marc-Andre Fleury wandered out of his net with disastrous results.

The Blue Jackets won the game 4-3 on Nick Foligno's goal 2:49 into overtime, but it was Dubinsky's equalizer that was on the mind of Columbus coach Todd Richards.

“It's fitting,” he said.

Richards gave Dubinsky the job of checking Sidney Crosby, the NHL's leading scorer this season with 104 points, and he has relished the role.

Crosby has four assists but no goals in the series. In the two games in Columbus in which the Blue Jackets had the last line change, Dubinsky was on the ice about 70 percent of the time when Crosby was.

“I use him most of the time to match up against Crosby, and that's not an easy task,” Richards said. “(Dubinsky) is hard on draws and the physical game and has a commitment to playing defense.”

The flip side is that in addition to his Game 4 goal, Dubinsky also has five assists.

“Some of the people might not have given him enough credit because he hadn't scored” until Wednesday, Columbus center Ryan Johansen said. “In this room, we know what he's done for this team.

“(Dubinsky's) done a great job, especially on Crosby. He's one of our more physical players and really tough to beat in the corners.”

Dubinsky prides himself on being a two-way player. His previous playoff experience prior to this season with the New York Rangers steeled him for the grind.

“If you consider yourself a good player or a top player, and I do, your top player has to be your best player,” he said. “I've tried to do go out there every night and do my best.

“I've had a lot of help. A lot of guys have stepped up. I'm proud of the guys. We're going to continue to work and get ready for a big Game 5.”

His aggressive style and willingness to use the body has seemed to unnerve Crosby at times.

“Obviously, the skilled players don't like to get him,” Atkinson said. “It's that way on any team. You've got to keep getting in their kitchen and keep pressuring them and keep them away from their game.”

Blue Jackets center Mark Letestu was not surprised that it was Dubinsky sending the game to overtime Wednesday.

“Dubi relishes the big moments,” he said. “If you think back to the big moments the last two years for this franchise, he seems to be in or around it.”

Richards said Dubinsky has upped his play in the postseason.

“He plays with a lot of emotion. That's one thing that really helps drive his game,” he said “He has taken it to another level. This is the big stage. Big players want to be on the big stage.”

Craig Merz is a freelance writer.

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