Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Blue Jackets rookie star out for season

- By Dave Molinari and Jason Mackey Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. Jason Mackey: jmackey@postgazett­e.com and Twitter @JMackeyPG.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus’ uphill climb in its first-round playoff series against the Penguins got even steeper Monday, when coach John Tortorella announced that defenseman Zach Werenski will not play again this season.

Werenski, one of the NHL’s top rookies, was left with facial fractures when a Phil Kessel shot rode up the shaft of his stick and smacked him under the right eye Sunday in the Penguins’ 5-4 overtime victory in Game 3.

Werenski left the game for medical treatment but later returned, only to sit out the overtime because severe swelling impeded his vision.

After the game, Werenski put a photo of his face on social media, showing the gruesome swelling and discolorat­ion cause by the puck.

Werenski scored a powerplay goal in the first period of Game 1 and has establishe­d himself as a core player for the Blue Jackets at age 19. Columbus, with good reason, expects him to be a difference-maker for a lot of years.

“He is on a fast-track path to be one of the mainstays in this league,” Tortorella said.

Father misses show

Jake Guentzel’s father, Mike, became an internet sensation when Jake scored on his first NHL shift, on his first NHL shot, and the genuine exuberance shown by Mike, as well as his wife, Sally, and oldest son, Ryan, went viral. No such luck Sunday. As Jake produced a hat trick and scored the winning goal in overtime to beat the Blue Jackets in Game 3, Mike, associate men’s hockey coach at Minnesota, couldn't watch the game. He was busy scouting.

“I don’t know if he’ll get to watch anymore,” Jake said. “But it was pretty special to talk to him.”

Top priority is clear

Members of the Penguins’ top line — Sidney Crosby, flanked by Guentzel and Conor Sheary — have scored five of the team’s 12 goals in this series, and contribute­d six assists.

Finding a way to do damage-control against them in Game 4 at 7:38 p.m. Tuesday at Nationwide Arena will, predictabl­y, be a priority for Columbus in Game 4.

“They’ve played well,” Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky said. “Obviously, [Guentzel and Sheary] are speedy guys, elusive, good with the puck. They complement him well. That’s a good line. It’s a tough challenge. We can’t afford to let those guys score three goals [in Game 4]. I know it’s going to be a big challenge for me and, most likely, my line.”

Fleury uses his head

Marc-Andre Fleury’s mother, France, likely at some point in her son’s life told him to use his head a little bit more.

It’s doubtful this is what she had in mind.

Fleury used his head to stop Dubinsky’s shot in overtime because … well, it was pretty much all he had available to him at the time.

“Especially in this situation, it’s a little bit of a desperate move, trying to get across and cover some net,” Fleury said. “I think my mom would be proud of me for using my head.”

The shot rattled Fleury — how could it not? —– but he said he did see it coming. For a fairly obvious reason, too.

“It was between my eyes,” Fleury said. “I saw it. I didn’t have time to react on it or anything. It just kind of hit me there.”

 ?? Jay LaPrete/Associated Press ?? The Blue Jackets well need to find a way to contain Jake Guentzel, right, and the rest of the Penguins’ top line if they want to avoid a sweep Tuesday night.
Jay LaPrete/Associated Press The Blue Jackets well need to find a way to contain Jake Guentzel, right, and the rest of the Penguins’ top line if they want to avoid a sweep Tuesday night.

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