Penguins notebook: R.J. Umberger back in lineup for Columbus
April 20, 2014 12:02 AM
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury makes a save on Columbus' R.J. Umberger, a Plum native.
By Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Columbus forward R.J. Umberger, who grew up in Plum, returned to the lineup Saturday night against the Penguins after sitting out Game 1 because of an unspecified injury.
"It was definitely hard to watch, especially a playoff game in my hometown," he said of Game 1, a 4-3 Penguins win. "You want to be out there as much as you can, helping my guys. Helping the team."
Although this is the first time the Blue Jackets and Penguins have met in the playoffs, it's not the first time Umberger has faced the club he cheered for as a boy. He was with Philadelphia when the Penguins beat the Flyers in the Eastern Conference final in 2008.
"The circumstances are a little bit different," Umberger said. "That was in the [Eastern final], so you're close to playing [in] the Stanley Cup final, so that was huge.
"It was the first time playing playoffs in my hometown, and, obviously, the rivalry between Philly and Pittsburgh was at a whole different level."
The Penguins and Columbus don't have anything close to the mutual disdain the Penguins and Flyers do, but Umberger believes this series will help to spur a genuine rivalry. Especially when he seems convinced the Blue Jackets' fortunes are on a decidedly upward trajectory.
"This is an awesome group we have here," Umberger said. "We're starting something special in this organization and this team. You have to start somewhere with a rivalry between the Penguins and us. This is the first step."
It's not so fine with them
Two spearing incidents Friday night got the attention of the Penguins.
Boston's Milan Lucic skated up from behind and drove his stick between the legs of Detroit's Danny DeKeyser in the second period of their game. Anaheim's Corey Perry, in an immediate response to being hit by Dallas' Jamie Benn, jammed his stick in the same area on Benn.
Lucic's incident was behind the play, and he got no penalty -- although the NHL on Saturday handed down a $5,000 fine. Perry got a slashing penalty.
DeKeyser and Benn apparently were not injured, although they were in obvious discomfort.
The Penguins seemed more upset with the actions of Lucic.
"I think that's gutless, especially in Lucic's case," Penguins winger Tanner Glass said. "It's from behind. It's in a vulnerable area.
"There's no place for that in the game. That's calculated. He's skating from behind. He knows what he's doing. It's not a reactionary type of thing.
"Perry's is a little more off the cuff, but I thought Lucic's was pretty dirty."
Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen also called Lucic's actions "pretty dirty," and, a couple of hours before the fine was announced, said he hoped there would be some sort of sanctions.
Niskanen postulated that if the NHL were to let incidents such as Lucic's go without supplemental discipline, it would open the door for other players to cross the line --including him.
"There are a few guys, a few instances, where I might use that, if I know there's no discipline for it, to be honest," Niskanen said.
A tough job, for sure
Columbus center Brandon Dubinsky has drawn the assignment of trying to contain Sidney Crosby of the Penguins, who was limited to a power-play assist in Game 1.
If Dubinsky has a unique strategy for executing his duties, he's not sharing it. His approach sounds a lot like that of most guys who are matched against Crosby.
"He's probably the best player in the world," Dubinsky said. "You just have to do your best to try to take his time and space away, make it difficult on him. Stay physical on him and just be in his face as much as you can."
Although he spent a lot of time around Crosby in Game 1, Dubinsky said there was "not really" a lot of talking between the two.
"He competes hard; I compete hard," Dubinsky said. "I don't think it's any secret he knows I'm there and what my job is.
"Look, you're never going to shut a guy like that down. He's too good of a player. But you have to do your best to try to contain him and try to limit his scoring chances."
Penguins center Marcel Goc (ankle injury) continues to skate separately from team practice sessions, and coach Dan Bylsma said things will stay on that course for now because he "hasn't been deemed ready to return to practice."... Blue Jackets veteran winger Nick Foligno skated after his team's game-day skate but remained out because of an unspecified injury. He was ruled out of Game 2 earlier in the week, then hopes rose he might be ready for Saturday after a strong practice Friday. "We're hoping that he'll be able to go in Game 3," coach Todd Richards said.
Shelly Anderson: email@example.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.
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