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Young Blue Jackets not satisfied with just being in playoffs

The Associated Press
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The Blue Jackets' Mark Letestu (55) and the Penguins' James Neal (18) tangle during the third period Friday, March 28, 2014, in Columbus, Ohio.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Columbus Blue Jackets never have won a playoff game.

Forward Mark Letestu looks at that as an opportunity instead of a stigma.

“I don’t think there’s a burden,” he said during preparations for the Blue Jackets’ first-round playoff battle with Pittsburgh that opens Wednesday. “This team’s into firsts. We set a franchise record in wins. We’re back in the playoffs now after a long drought. This team’s all about setting firsts. I don’t think we view that as an ‘if’; I think it’s a ‘when.’ ”

At the very least, the Blue Jackets are hoping their second trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs lasts somewhat longer than the first.

In 2009, they took on Detroit. Four games and eight days later, it was all over.

Jared Boll, the longest tenured Blue Jacket, concedes that maybe the big thing five years ago was just making it into the postseason.

“It was a goal of ours, and we made it,” he said. “But this year, it’s different. We’re here now, and we expect to do good things. We’re not satisfied with just making the playoffs. We want to be successful.”

The Blue Jackets, owners of the first wild card in the East after a franchise-best 43-32-7 (93 points) season, are a decided underdog against the Penguins.

With one of the youngest rosters in the NHL — an average age of between 26 and 27 years old — many of the Blue Jackets are still kids. They’re even younger without forwards Nick Foligno (lower body) and Plum native R.J. Umberger (shoulder), who may return later in the series, and without prized offseason signing Nathan Horton, out for the postseason after abdominal surgery.

On top of that, the Penguins went 5-0-0 against Columbus this season.

Yet the Blue Jackets don’t sound as if they’ll be intimidated.

“Why should you be afraid?” said Cam Atkinson, a miniature (5-foot-8, 174 pounds) terror on the ice who had 21 goals and 19 assists. “It’s just what you’ve been working up for your whole life. You’ve got to cherish the moment and the opportunity.”

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