Greetings, hockey fans.

Well, no James Neal for five games. And no shock there. The good news is that Evgeni Malkin is set to return to the lineup this evening when the Penguins take on the Blue Jackets. Suddenly, the Penguins are quite shorthanded and need their two superstars to carry the load even more than usual.

Tonight’s probable lines and defense pairings:

Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-Pascal Dupuis

Jussi Jokinen-Evgeni Malkin-Jayson Megna

Chris Conner-Brandon Sutter-Chuck Kobasew

Zach Sill-Joe Vitale-Craig Adams

Olli Maatta-Kris Letang

Simon Despres-Matt Niskanen

Deryk Engelland-Robert Bortuzzo

Marc-Andre Fleury

That isn’t definite on those defensive pairings, but we’ll see how things go. I don’t like Engelland and Bortuzzo playing together, but that might happen at time tonight. We know Maatta and Bortuzzo are good together. But, Maatta has been good with Letang, so maybe it’s best not to mess with that. Despres and Niskanan have been terrific together, too.

Injury update

= Malkin is playing tonight. Good news.
= Brooks Orpik does have a concussion, but is otherwise feeling OK. News could be worse.
= Rob Scuderi and Tanner Glass continue to skate and could each be back in the lineup before Christmas.

Watch For This N’ At

= Columbus has been attempting to play a very tight, conservative style. Will be interesting to see how the Penguins can crack them. Malkin being back helps.

= Look out for Columbus center Ryan Johansen. Really talented guy.

= Who’s the trigger man on the power play with Neal out? Crosby or Malkin?

= With all the defensemen out, it’s Letang’s show. How will he do?

The Read

Here’s a story on why Orpik’s concussion might not be as bad as feared. http://triblive.com/sports/steelers/5221255-74/orpik-concussion-bylsma#axzz2mnKb1uDh

Enjoy the hockey game, dear readers.

– Yohe