(SportsNetwork.com) - The Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins will meet for the first time since an entertaining playoff battle last spring when the Metropolitan Division foes clash Saturday night in Ohio.
The Blue Jackets entered last season's first-round postseason series as heavy underdogs, but Columbus was able to take two games from the Pens in the surprisingly competitive matchup. Both of Columbus' wins came after regulation and it seemed no lead was safe for either team as the first five games all featured comebacks.
Although Columbus fell in six games to the Pens it was a landmark playoff series for the Blue Jackets franchise. After getting swept in its only previous playoff appearance -- a 4-0 series loss to Detroit in 2009 -- the Jackets were able to post the first two postseason wins in club history.
Pittsburgh has dominated the Blue Jackets in the regular season, however, winning six straight in the series. The Pens own a 14-4-1 record against Columbus and have won five straight meetings at Nationwide Arena.
A familiar face will be absent from the Penguins side tonight, as captain Sidney Crosby will sit out a second straight game due to an illness. The Penguins were able to win on Friday without Crosby, who is tied for second in the NHL with 35 points on nine goals and 26 assists in 27 games.
Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford said in a statement there is "no indication" Crosby has the mumps, a viral infection generally found in children that has hit several NHL locker rooms recently. The Penguins said medical specialists recommended Crosby be held out for a couple of games following new test results.
Rutherford said they would have "additional test results in a few days."
The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, will play tonight without forward Scott Hartnell, who is expected to miss two weeks with a broken finger suffered in Thursday's win over Washington.
Hartnell was not a member of the Blue Jackets during last season's playoff series. He has six goals and 11 assists in 28 games in 2014-15, his first season with Columbus following a trade from the Philadelphia Flyers.
Columbus enters this playoff rematch on its best stretch of the season, having opened December on a five-game winning streak. The Blue Jackets were just 6-15-2 heading into this month and had not posted a winning streak of more than two games.
The Blue Jackets' last two victories have come via 3-2 overtime decisions. Columbus earned a win Thursday in Washington thanks to Nick Foligno's power- play marker with 18.8 seconds remaining in overtime. It was Foligno's second goal of the game and 13th of the season. He had 18 goals in 70 games in 2013-14.
Jason Chimera was whistled for interference in the extra session, putting the Blue Jackets on the man advantage at the 3:03 mark of OT. After Sergei Bobrovsky made two huge short-handed saves, Jack Johnson, who drew the penalty from Chimera, dished to Foligno for a one-timer from the right circle. The puck sailed over Braden Holtby's glove for the win.
Bobrovsky earned First Star honors after anchoring the Jackets with a 39-save victory.
Kevin Connauton, who scored the overtime game-winner in Columbus' OT triumph against Philadelphia on Tuesday, tied the game at 2-2 with a one-timer from the point at 10:59.
"It wasn't the start that we wanted but we found a way to get our legs and get back into the game in large part because our goalie made some big saves for us," said Columbus head coach Todd Richards
Bobrovsky is 5-4-1 with a 3.05 goals against average in his career against Pittsburgh.
Sans Crosby, Pittsburgh was able to record a 3-1 home win over the Calgary Flames on Friday. Blake Comeau and Kris Letang posted early scores, while Rob Klinkhammer provided a late tally to help the Pens take the meeting at Consol Energy Center.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves for the Penguins, who won for the sixth time in their last nine and extended their lead over the Islanders atop the Metropolitan Division to three points.
"Great job by them blocking shots," Fleury said of his defensemen and penalty killers, who kept Calgary scoreless in five chances. "Keeping them to the outside and out from in front of the net. Very solid night."
Pens defenseman Olli Maatta also missed a second straight game due to an upper-body injury and he could sit out again tonight. Maatta missed six games earlier this season after having a cancerous tumor removed from his thyroid. Pittsburgh has said Maatta's current injury is not related to the thyroid surgery.
Pittsburgh is 9-2-2 on the road this season. After tonight's test, the Pens will return to the Steel City for a three-game homestand, beginning with Monday's showdown against the Tampa Bay Lightning.