CBJ Today: April 18
If Friday's practice was any indication, RJ Umberger is eagerly awaiting Game 2 on Saturday night at CONSOL Energy Center.
Umberger, who has missed the last two-plus weeks with an upper body injury, took part in full practice for the first time since his injury and skated on a regular line during rushes. Todd Richards said on Thursday that Umberger was a possibility to play in Game 2, but that they would make a final decision after seeing how he got through a demanding practice.
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He skated on left wing with Artem Anisimov at center and Blake Comeau on right wing, forming a solid checking line that can play with some weight. The Blue Jackets, who did a solid job defending the Penguins 5-on-5 in Game 1, are looking to amp up their checking game another level and also spend more time with the puck in Pittsburgh's zone.
That was not the case in the third period of Game 1, when the Penguins took over the game and forced the Blue Jackets to defend and then come the length of the ice to generate offense.
Here are the Blue Jackets' lines and pairs from Friday practice:
Jenner - Johansen - Skille
Calvert - Dubinsky - Atkinson
Umberger - Anisimov - Comeau
MacKenzie - Letestu - Tropp/Boll
Tyutin - Johnson
Murray - Wisniewski
Niktin - Savard
Umberger said he was feeling good after practice and was anxiously looking forward to Game 2 against a team he grew up watching. A native of suburban Pittsburgh, Umberger began his Stanley Cup playoff career with the Philadelphia Flyers and now, he gets a chance to play against the Penguins as a member of the Blue Jackets.
"I grew up going to these playoff games, this was my childhood and earlier in my career I got a chance to play in Mellon Arena," Umberger said. "The atmosphere was great (in Game 1) and I'm anxious and really excited to get in there."
And he's been studying up on the opposition. Umberger paid especially-close attention to Game 1 while watching from the press box, taking mental notes and looking for areas that could be improved upon later in the series.
"You saw the benefit of us getting pucks in deep and putting pressure on their D," Umberger said. "I heard (Foligno) say that everything looks so easy up there, and it does, but it definitely gives you a good perspective."
After going through a hard practice on Thursday, Nick Foligno was right back out there on Friday and he kicked things up a notch. He was originally ruled out of Game 2 (lower body), but things took a positive turn today and now, it's more than merely a possibility that he could also return on Saturday.
He was fast, crisp and passed "the Dan Hinote test" at the end of practice, amplifying the "battle" in drills and testing his injury to make sure it's holding up as he had hoped. There were good signs and good vibes from both Foligno and Richards, but they'll wait until tomorrow to make the call.
Richards said he paid close attention to Foligno today and was pleasantly surprised, while adding he would meet with the Blue Jackets' medical staff to get more information on whether Foligno can play Saturday.
"I liked the way that he looked," Richards said. "That gets you excited as a coach."