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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Sunday, December 29th (All times Eastern)

Pittsburgh Penguins (28-11-1) at Columbus Blue Jackets (17-17-4), 6 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - Cam Atkinson can only hope his 101st career game is as successful as his 100th.

The forward will try to lead the Columbus Blue Jackets to a season-high fourth victory in a row and a first in four meetings this season with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday evening.

A former sixth-round pick by Columbus in 2008, Atkinson has set career highs already this season with 10 goals, 10 assists, 20 points and 38 games played. He had an assist and the lone shootout tally in Friday's 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils.

Atkinson, the Blue Jackets' third shooter, slipped a shot through Martin Brodeur's legs.

"It seemed like (Brodeur) was coming out pretty far, and while I can shoot, I like to deke," Atkinson said of his approach in the shootout. "I saw the opening and went five-hole and luckily it went in."

Atkinson also assisted on Artem Anisimov's regulation goal, a tally that gave Anisimov five points in his last four games, while Curtis McElhinney made 16 saves.

McElhinney, who continues to fill in for the injured Sergei Bobrovsky (strained groin), is 0-2-0 with a 1.96 goals against average in three career meetings with the Penguins, including two starts.

The Blue Jackets have lost four in a row to the Penguins, including the first three of five meetings this season, and Pittsburgh is 12-4-1 all-time in this series.

Pittsburgh has won three straight in Columbus, including a 3-0 win on Nov. 2.

The Penguins have won eight of their last nine, bouncing back from a loss to Ottawa on Monday that opened a four-game swing with Friday's 4-3 overtime victory against Carolina.

Pittsburgh erased a 2-1 deficit in the third period on goals by Chris Conner and Deryk Engelland, who returned from a five-game suspension, but Carolina pulled even at 3-3 on Drayson Bowman's wraparound goal with 2:29 remaining.

James Neal then secured the extra point for the Pens 63 seconds into overtime, working a give-and-go with Jussi Jokinen and firing a return feed home from the slot.

Neal added two assists and Jokinen finished with three helpers for the Penguins. Sidney Crosby had a goal, his NHL-leading 55th point of the season.

Pittsburgh finished strong after getting outshot 16-7 in the first period and trailing 1-0 in the frame.

"We got caught in their pressure game. They pressured hard and came at us," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said about the first period.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves to earn his league-high 22nd win of the season in his 500th career game. He is 5-1-1 with a 2.33 GAA in his career versus the Blue Jackets, winning twice against them this season while giving up three goals on 72 shots.

While defenseman Brooks Orpik (concussion) and forward Tanner Glass (broken hand) both returned from injury to play on Friday, the Penguins are likely going to be without forward Pascal Dupuis for the rest of the season due to an injured ACL.

Also, forward Evgeni Malkin missed his sixth game in a row due to a lower-body injury. He practiced for a second day in a row on Saturday, but has yet to be cleared for contact.

Malkin has nine goals and 32 assists in 32 games this season.

In positive news for Pittsburgh, defenseman Rob Scuderi is close to returning from an ankle injury suffered back on Oct. 26. There is a chance he returns to action tonight.

12/29 10:23:10 ET

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Eric Staal's goal, 2 assists lift Canes over Penguins, 5-2

Cam Ward stood tall in his return from a bout with a virus, and his Carolina Hurricanes teammates gave the goalie plenty of offensive help.

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