Schenn: 'I feel good, better than I thought'
Seven straight wins at the Wells Fargo Center for the Flyers (15-15-4).
They’ll get a shot at No. 8 tonight when they begin a home-and-home series with the Columbus Blue Jackets (14-16-4).
Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. (CSN).
Here are five things you need to know:
1. Will Schenn play?
It’s hard to believe that Brayden Schenn is only questionable for tonight’s game (see story).
Schenn was the victim of a violent hit from Capitals rookie Tom Wilson, which netted the Flyers a five-minute power play and booted the 19-year-old from the contest. Wilson has a noon phone hearing with the Department of Player Safety on Thursday. The Flyers ended up winning, 5-2.
The good news is Schenn didn’t suffer a concussion.
“I feel good, better than I thought,” Schenn said Wednesday. “A little bit of a stiff neck, but as far as head-wise, I feel good. Obviously, that’s a good sign. I went hard, head first into the boards and luckily walked away with probably the best thing possible.”
It’ll be a game-time decision whether Schenn plays against Columbus, but if he’s unable to go, it puts coach Craig Berube in a pickle. Schenn has been centering Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds with Vinny Lecavalier still out with a non-displaced fracture in his back and accompanying spasms.
Who takes Schenn’s spot on the second line? Sean Couturier and Matt Read are two possibilities, but they’re two parts of the team’s best line over the last month. Does Berube want to disrupt the line of Couturier, Read and Steve Downie? No way.
Chris VandeVelde replaced Schenn on Tuesday after he left. But VandeVelde signed an NHL contract with the Flyers only last week and has played just three games. He did pick up an assist against the Caps. He’s likely the guy to take Schenn’s spot if he can’t go.
2. Draw penalties
If Schenn sits out, not much can be expected from Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell, and it will force the Flyers to rely on two lines -- the top line and the CD-R line. To get those two players involved, the Flyers will have to goad the Blue Jackets into taking penalties.
That won’t be easy, as Columbus has 123 minor penalties this season, which is the 10th least in the league. In comparison, the Flyers have 160 minors, second-most in the NHL.
Columbus has the 19th-ranked PK unit in the league at an 81.1 percent kill rate. The Jackets have surrendered a PP goal in each of their last two games.
The Flyers’ power play, after a horrid start, has converted 20.9 percent of its chances -- 18 for 86 -- since Nov. 1. The Flyers recorded two PP goals Tuesday. The power play is also where Simmonds and Hartnell do most of their damage.
On the season, both Simmonds and Hartnell have six goals. Simmonds snapped a 10-game goalless drought Tuesday. Half of his goals have come on the man advantage; two of Hartnell’s markers are PP goals.
Getting power plays will keep those two forwards involved tonight. That’ll be important.
3. Ouch, remember last time?
The last time these two teams met on Wells Fargo Center ice, it wasn’t much of a game.
It was Nov. 5, 2011, and the Flyers enjoyed one of their easiest victories in recent memory.
The Flyers had a 5-0 lead after the first period, Jakub Voracek notched two goals and an assist in his first game against his former club, and Sean Couturier potted two goals en route to a 9-2 shellacking of the Blue Jackets.
And Steve Mason, whom the Flyers acquired at last season’s deadline, gave up seven goals.
A lot has changed since that game. Only 11 players on the Flyers’ roster played, and one of them played for Columbus. And the Jackets are now in the Eastern Conference, nonetheless in the same division as the Flyers.
Don’t expect nine goals and a seven-goal win tonight.
4. What about Bob?
For those who wanted to see former Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky, you’ll be disappointed.
The Vezina Trophy-winning netminder is out with a strained groin. He hasn’t played since suffering the injury on Dec. 3 against the Lightning. In 23 games this year, Bobrovsky is 10-11-2 with a 2.72 goals against average and .909 save percentage.
Columbus has turned to 30-year-olds Curtis McElhinney and Mike McKenna. McElhinney has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury, but will be able to backup to McKenna tonight. McKenna is 0-1-1 with a 3.02 GAA in three games, two starts.
This won’t be the first time the Flyers missed out on facing a familiar foe while playing the Blue Jackets.
Jeff Carter sat out the Blue Jackets’ 9-2 loss to the Orange and Black with a foot injury. The Flyers still have yet to face the 40-goal scorer, who was traded to the Kings later that season and won the Stanley Cup with L.A.
5. This and that
• In three games on the top line, Michael Raffl has four points (one goal, three assists).
• 21-year-old Ryan Johansen leads the Blue Jackets with 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists).
• Columbus is 3-13-1 when its opponent scores first, while the Flyers are 3-10-2. Whoever scores first likely wins.
• The Blue Jackets have never won in Philadelphia. They’re 0-4-1 playing in South Philly.
• Claude Giroux needs two more goals for 100 career NHL goals.