Flyers-Blue Jackets: 5 things you need to know

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Flyers-Blue Jackets: 5 things you need to know

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.

NHL Notes: Panthers flip Dave Bolland's contract, prospect Lawson Crouse to Coyotes for picks

NHL Notes: Panthers flip Dave Bolland's contract, prospect Lawson Crouse to Coyotes for picks

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- The Arizona Coyotes have acquired prospect Lawson Crouse and veteran Dave Bolland's contract from the Florida Panthers for two draft picks.

Arizona sent a 2017 third-round pick and a conditional 2018 second-rounder that could become another 2017 third to Florida. The Coyotes are taking on the final three years of the injured Bolland's deal to pick up Crouse, the 11th pick in the 2015 draft.

Nagging injuries limited Bolland to 25 games last season, and the 30-year-old forward has three years left on his deal at a salary-cap hit of $5.5 million. But Arizona general manager John Chayka said Bolland isn't expected to play for the foreseeable future and could be placed on long-term injured reserve.

Crouse, 19, is a 6-foot-4 left winger who could make his NHL debut this fall.

Avalanche name Jared Bednar head coach
DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche have hired Jared Bednar as their new head coach.

Bednar replaces Patrick Roy, who abruptly stepped down as coach and vice president of hockey operations earlier this month.

The 44-year-old Bednar won the American Hockey League's Calder Cup championship as coach of the Lake Erie Monsters last season. He also won the ECHL's Kelly Cup in 2009 with the South Carolina Stingrays.

President of hockey operations and general manager Joe Sakic said upon Roy's sudden resignation that he'd look outside the organization for Colorado's next coach. He did just that with Bednar, who had been in the Columbus system.

Sidney Crosby named Canada's captain for World Cup of Hockey
Canada has chosen Sidney Crosby as its captain for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

Crosby returns as Canada's captain after wearing the "C" for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He's coming off his second Stanley Cup as captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Montreal Canadiens defenseman Shea Weber will serve as the alternates.

Crosby scored one of Canada's biggest goals in international history when he beat U.S. goaltender Ryan Miller to win the gold medal on home ice at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Now 29, he has two gold medals, two Cup rings and a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Canada begins training camp Sept. 5 in Ottawa. The World Cup begins Sept. 17 in Toronto (see full story).

Coyotes hire NHL's first female coach
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes have hired Dawn Braid as skating coach and say she is believed to be the first full-time female coach in NHL history.

Braid has a long association with the NHL.

She worked part-time for the Coyotes last year and has served as a skating consultant with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres and Calgary Flames.

Braid also spent seven years with the Athletes Training Center as director of skating development. Among the skaters she worked with while there is New York Islanders center John Tavares (see full story).

Philadelphia to host 2016 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame ceremony

Philadelphia to host 2016 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame ceremony

Philadelphia will host the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Nov. 30.

USA Hockey on Tuesday announced that the Flyers will host the event for the first time.

The 2016 Hall of Fame class includes legendary high school coach Bill Belisle, former NHL forward Craig Janney, and the 1996 World Cup of Hockey team. 

That team featured Brett Hull, Brian Leetch and Abington native Mike Richter. It also has a special connection with Philly. The 1996 World Cup of Hockey was the first sporting event played at the CoreStates Center (now the Wells Fargo Center). The U.S. would go on to win the tournament.

“We’re excited to bring the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Celebration to Philadelphia,” Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, said in a statement. “It’s one of our nation’s very top hockey cities, thanks in large part to the decades-long efforts of the late Ed Snider, and fans in the area will enjoy being part of enshrining the Class of 2016. This is always one of the most anticipated events on the calendar each year and we’re grateful for the advance support we’ve received from the Flyers and our Atlantic Affiliate.”

Tuesday also marks 50 days until the Flyers begin their 50th anniversary season. 

Flyers legends Mark Howe, John LeClair to coach All-American Prospects Game in Philadelphia

Flyers legends Mark Howe, John LeClair to coach All-American Prospects Game in Philadelphia

U.S. Hockey Hall of Famers and Flyers legends Mark Howe and John LeClair will go behind the bench next month at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
Both have been selected as head coaches for the 5th annual CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game here on Sept. 22.
 
This is just one of many events planned at the Wells Fargo Center this season to celebrate the Flyers’ 50th Anniversary.
 
The 7 p.m. faceoff features 42 of the top American-born prospects eligible for the 2017 NHL draft.
 
Howe and LeClair have combined to represent the U.S. seven times: one Canada Cup, two IIHF World Championships, one World Cup of Hockey and three Olympics. Howe was elected to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003 and LeClair’s induction occurred in 2009.

Howe was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011.
 
Tickets for the All-American Prospects Game can be obtained online at  ComcastTIX.com, or by calling 1-800-298-4200, or by visiting the Wells Fargo Center Box office.