Blues, Penguins looking for health, win against one another

Field Level Media

When the Penguins and Blues take the ice for their game Saturday in St. Louis, they'll do so with more of a limp than a smooth stride.

At least they can feel pretty good about the way they have played lately.

Though Pittsburgh fell 5-2 Friday at Columbus, the Penguins had won their previous three games and picked up at least one point in their previous six.

But against the Blue Jackets, the Penguins were unable to pull off their third three-goal comeback in November as they trailed 4-1 after two periods.

"It's tough to come back every single game," Pittsburgh winger Patric Hornqvist told reporters.

St. Louis didn't have to stage a comeback but won a nailbiter 3-1 Friday at Dallas. The Blues are 4-1-1 in their last six five games, but avoided their 10th one-goal game this season by tallying an empty-netter.

Both teams have been hit hard by injuries, including to some key players.

Pittsburgh already was without center and team captain Sidney Crosby (sports hernia surgery), center Nick Bjugstad (core muscle surgery) and defenseman Justin Schultz (lower body). In the team's morning skate Friday, top-line winger Bryan Rust tumbled skate-first into the boards, left, then returned.

Despite coach Mike Sullivan initially saying Rust was "fine," the winger missed the game against Columbus. His status for Saturday is unclear, with Sullivan saying postgame only that Rust "has a lower-body injury."

Rust has 10 points (four goals, six assists) in his last six games.

The Penguins recalled forward Joseph Blandisi, but he didn't arrive in time for the start of the game, forcing defenseman Juuso Riikola to play winger.

The two players who had been manning the top line with Rust since Crosby got hurt, winger Jake Guentzel and center Evgeni Malkin, continue to produce.

Malkin has 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in his past seven games. Guentzel, who leads the Penguins with 15 goals, has 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in a seven-game point streak.

The Blues are without forwards Vladimir Tarasenko (upper body), Alexander Steen (ankle), Sammy Blais (wrist) and Oskar Sundqvist (lower body).

In addition, defenseman Carl Gunnarsson was ill Friday, and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo will miss Saturday's game as he serves the last game of a four-game suspension for a cross-check against Nashville's Viktor Arvidsson.

Two players made their St. Louis debut Friday -- winger Nathan Walker and defenseman Derrick Pouliot, who began his career with Pittsburgh.

"Every team has to (trust its organizational depth) at some point," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "It's unfortunate with these injuries, and more than anything, it's the length of them that hurts. We're going to need these guys to play well for a while."

St. Louis winger Zach Sanford believes the players are up for that.

"It goes back to the leaders, and everyone on this team from top to bottom who can step up and maybe take over a little more of (an increased) role," Sanford said. "Or change their role a little bit to help the team be successful. And we've been doing a good job of it."

Blues forward David Perron has a six-game point streak (three goals, four assists).

--Field Level Media

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