PITTSBURGH — Only three Blue Jackets players were around for the team’s other playoff appearance, a fact that makes it tough to compare this postseason with the one in 2009.
But youth is on the Blue Jackets’ side this time, right wing Jared Boll said.
“This team definitely has a lot left in the tank,” said Boll, the longest tenured player on the team. “There are a lot of young guys here, but they have a lot left to give.”
Tired legs and minds were a factor five years ago, when the Blue Jackets — including Boll, R.J. Umberger and Fedor Tyutin — were swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round.
There were signs that the 2009 Jackets — including Calder Trophy-winning goaltender Steve Mason — had left their best hockey behind by the time the playoffs began. They were 1-2-2 in their final five games of the regular season and slid to the seventh spot in the Western Conference. That team had players with considerably more playoff experience.
“There are so many young guys (now), but they play like they are older than they are,” Boll said. “Boone (Jenner), (Ryan) Murray, (David Savard) — all those guys.“
Still, the Jackets entered last night’s game with a combined 251 playoff games among them. The Penguins had 1,154.
“You have to start sometime,” said Boll, whose only postseason game before last night was the series opener in 2009. “All those (Penguins) were in the same shoes once.”
Blue Jackets center Mark Letestu played 11 playoff games for the Penguins in 2010 and 2011 but said he was nervous yesterday “just because of the gravity of the situation, of the Stanley Cup playoffs.”
“But there are always going to be nerves,” he said. “If there’s not, there is probably something wrong with you.”
Letestu said he carried no ill will into Game 1, despite being traded by the Penguins to the Blue Jackets in 2011 for a fourth-round draft pick in 2012. The Penguins used the pick on forward Matia Marcantuoni, a mid-level prospect who made his pro debut last weekend for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the American Hockey League.
Letestu, meanwhile, has morphed into the Jackets’ most versatile player, capable of skating on any forward line at any position. He is a regular on the power play and penalty kill.
“They had some really skilled centermen playing in front of me, and maybe I just didn’t fit (in Pittsburgh),” he said. “But players change. They evolve. Now, I am what I am and I’m happy to be here.”
The Penguins reassigned forward Chris Conner to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for a conditioning assignment. Conner had missed 40 games because of a foot injury. He was the fourth player sent down by the Penguins in the past two days.
Defensemen Nick Schultz and Dalton Prout, forward Matt Frattin and goaltender Jeremy Smith were the Blue Jackets’ healthy scratches. … Injured Jackets R.J. Umberger (upper body) and Nick Foligno (knee) participated in the final portion of yesterday’s morning skate. … The Blue Jackets are scheduled to practice at 11 a.m. this morning at Nationwide Arena. The practice will be closed to the public. They will return to Pittsburgh on Friday afternoon.