Flyers-Blue Jackets: 5 things you need to know

Flyers-Blue Jackets: 5 things you need to know

Tocchet happy with 'whole month' of hockey from the Flyers

April 3, 2014, 10:00 am
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After back-to-back shootout losses to two 50-win teams, the Flyers (39-27-9) will close out their season series with the Columbus Blue Jackets (38-30-7) on Thursday.

Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. (CSN) at Wells Fargo Center.

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. The final countdown
The Flyers have just seven games remaining this season. They will continue their playoff push Thursday with a crucial matchup against the Blue Jackets, who own the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and are four points behind the Flyers for third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Things haven't gone well for the Flyers against Columbus this season. The Jackets have won two of the first three meetings and have scored four or more goals in each contest.

The Flyers do have one major factor in their favor: Wells Fargo Center. Columbus has never won here in South Philly, going 0-5-0 with one tie in its six visits.

The last time the Jackets were in town, the Flyers roared back for a 5-4 victory on Dec. 19, 2013. The comeback was spearheaded by Flyers captain Claude Giroux, who had two goals and two assists in the third period to rally his club to a victory. Former Blue Jacket Jakub Voracek picked up three points (one goal) and defenseman Mark Streit had two helpers.

The Flyers have survived a stretch of 10 games in 18 days against some of the toughest competition in the entire NHL. They've gone 6-2-2 during that stretch but are coming off back-to-back shootout losses. Every point matters. Two against a division rival on Thursday would be huge as the Flyers enter the matchup three points behind the New York Rangers for second in the Metro with two games in hand. Time to buckle down.

2. At long last ...
It could be the matchup we've all been waiting for. Will former Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky finally make his return to Philadelphia and go head to head against the man he ran out of Columbus? It sure looks like it.

All signs point to Bobrovsky making his first start as a visitor at Wells Fargo Center. The Russian netminder, who returned to the Columbus lineup on Tuesday after missing two games with the flu, did not accompany the Jackets to Philadelphia earlier this season because he was recovering from a groin injury.

Bobrovsky, the NHL's reigning Vezina winner, will likely be opposed by none other than Steve Mason. With the emergence of Bobrovsky in Columbus last season, Mason became expendable to the Jackets and was traded to the Flyers for Michael Leighton and a 2015 third-round pick. Since then, Bobrovsky has continued his stellar play for the Jackets and Mason has firmly taken hold of the starting job in net for the Flyers.

The Jackets have relied heavily on Bobrovsky to lead them back to the postseason and will continue to do so as they are in the thick of a heated fight for a playoff spot. Bobrovsky has done an admirable job handling the pressure, posting a 27-19-5 record with a .919 save percentage and 2.47 goals-against average this season.

Ray Emery put up an excellent performance in the Flyers' 1-0 shutout loss to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, but don't be surprised if you see Mason in this tilt. Mason is 8-2-1 with a 1.96 goals-against average in his last 11 home starts.

3. Stay focused
The Flyers' stretch of strong play has included a weekend sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins, a split against the Blues and a win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

So what does head coach Craig Berube think of his team earning 14 of a possible 20 points over its last 10 games?

“It’s good,” he said (see story). “We’ve done a good job of staying focused and playing hard, playing with energy. We've got to worry about tomorrow’s game [against Columbus].”

The Flyers had a complete day off Wednesday to rest. Berube wants his team fresh for this important divisional clash.

Keep an eye on the top line of Giroux, Voracek and Scott Hartnell in this one. The trio has combined for three goals and seven assists in three games against the Jackets this season.

4. Injuries
Kimmo Timonen missed Tuesday's game with an upper-body injury but is expected to return against Columbus.

“He’ll be ready to go,” Berube said (see story). “I wouldn’t say we gave him a breather. He’s an older guy and you’re a little banged up and stuff, it’s important to get a little bit of a break.”

Steve Downie, who is also suffering an upper-body ailment, is listed as questionable.

For the Jackets, Nathan Horton (lower body), Jack Skille (upper body), Ryan Murray (knee) and Nikata Nikitin (lower body) are all out.

5. This and that
• Vinny Lecavalier has three goals in his last three games after potting just one in his previous 10.

• Ex-Flyer R.J. Umberger, who is expected to play after being scratched the last two games, has two goals against his former club this season.

• The Flyers have eight players with 10 or more goals. Michael Raffl and Streit each have nine.

• Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski has five points in his last four games.

• Luke Schenn watch: He still needs three points to reach 100 in his NHL career.

Looking for Flyers tickets? Buy them through the Wanamaker Entertainment Group.