Flyers-Blue Jackets: 5 things you need to know

Flyers-Blue Jackets: 5 things you need to know
January 23, 2014, 9:15 am
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A day after dropping their second straight game to a Metropolitan Division foe, the Flyers (25-20-6) now have the unenviable task of trying to snap the Columbus Blue Jackets’ (25-20-4) seven-game win streak.

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. (CSN) at Nationwide Arena on Thursday.

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:

1. What about Bob?
Although the Flyers have already played Columbus twice this season, Thursday’s matchup has an intriguing storyline. Sergei Bobrovsky, who spent two up-and-down seasons with the orange and black, is expected to make his first start against the club that shipped him to the Blue Jackets on June 22, 2012 for second- and fourth-round draft picks in 2012 and another fourth-round selection in 2013.

Bobrovsky, as you may recall, supplanted current Flyer Steve Mason as the Jackets’ No. 1 goalie last season and was awarded the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender after registering 21 wins, a 2.00 goals-against average and .932 save percentage. The 25-year-old was rewarded for his play by Columbus with a two-year, $11.25 million contract extension this past offseason.

On the surface, it looks like the trade was an absolute steal for the Jackets, but let’s not forget what the Flyers got in return. They used the two 2012 picks to select towering goalie Anthony Stolarz – who is 21-4-1 with a 2.58 goals-against average and .926 save percentage with the OHL’s London Knights this season – and winger Taylor Leier – who has 24 goals and 46 points in 37 games with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks in 2013-14.

What about the other pick? Well, the Flyers sent it to the Los Angeles Kings for Simon Gagne on Feb. 27, 2013 and the forward collected 11 points in 27 games after the swap. But the Flyers elected not to re-sign Gagne last summer, and he is not currently employed in the NHL. OK, that didn’t quite work out as planned, but the Flyers still brought two promising youngsters into the organization in exchange for Bobrovsky.

Bottom line: A change of scenery has done wonders for Bobrovsky and the Jackets are a much better team because of it. The Flyers simply have to wait and see if their prospects pan out. Neither team has reached the postseason since the trade, but for now the advantage goes to Columbus.

2. Different this time around
The Flyers struck first against the Jackets this season, coming away with a 5-4 victory on Dec. 19 at Wells Fargo Center. Two days later, Columbus got revenge on its home ice by handing the Flyers a 6-3 loss after R.J. Umberger and Ryan Johansen tallied two goals apiece.

But this is a very different Jackets team. The Flyers didn’t have to deal with Bobrovsky in the first two meetings, and Nathan Horton was still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

Both players are a huge reason why Columbus has reeled off seven consecutive wins. The Jackets are 8-0-1 since Horton made his season debut on Jan. 2 and Bobrovsky has won all six starts he’s made since returning from a strained groin that sidelined him for 12 games.

Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek have had plenty of success against Columbus recently and the Flyers will need them to contribute if they want to come away with a win. Giroux has a team-high five points vs. the Jackets this season, while Voracek has two goals and five assists in three career games against the team that drafted him with the No. 7 pick in 2007.

The Jackets are just two points behind the Flyers for third place in the Metro and can leapfrog them in the standings with a victory on Thursday.

3. Still streaking
Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell each enter Thursday's game with five-game point-scoring streaks on the line.

Simmonds has been one of the NHL’s leading scorers since Dec. 17 and has a team-high 17 goals for the Flyers this season. During his current stretch, he’s collected two markers and six helpers.

As for Hartnell, the 31-year-old has seven points over his past five contests and has registered at least one point in 15 of his last 18 overall.

4. Injuries
Voracek’s ailing fingers made it difficult to hold his stick in Wednesdays’ 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, but the forward battled through the injury and had over 21 minutes of ice time (see story). He intends to play against Columbus.  

Zac Rinaldo (high left ankle sprain) is out.

For the Jackets, Marian Gaborik (broken collarbone), Jared Boll (bruised left foot), Cody Bass (broken thumb) and Jack Skille (upper body) are all on injured reserve. Blake Comeau is questionable to play.

5. This and that
• Bobrovsky’s line this season: 16-11-2 record, .915 save percentage, 2.55 goals against average, two shutouts.

• Mason’s line this season: 19-12-5 record, .915 save percentage, 2.57 goals-against average, one shutout.

• The Flyers have been outscored 10-3 in the first periods of their last seven games (2-3-2).

• Columbus has outscored its opponents by a 30-15 margin during the seven-game winning streak.

• The Flyers are 6-3-0 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.

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