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.

Shayne Gostisbehere suffers bone bruise on right hand in win over Stars

Shayne Gostisbehere suffers bone bruise on right hand in win over Stars

Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere took a shot off his right hand in the second period Saturday and has a bone bruise. 
 
The Flyers will watch it because sometimes the swelling prevents wearing a glove comfortably the next day.
 
Ghost, who has five points – all assists – over his past six games, was hit with a puck in the second period of a 4-2 win over the Stars. He went to the bench and tried to shake it off, but left for the dressing room shortly after a Flyers power play began in the period’s final three minutes.
 
He participated for part of the power play, then left the ice and did not return until the start of the third period.
 
“It was good by then,” he said. “Obviously, it hurt a bit.”
 
The Flyers play in Detroit on Sunday night. 
 
Ghost has 16 points (four goals) in 29 games this season. X-rays were negative, he said, adding he was not worried about the hand, which was badly swollen after the game. 

Brayden Schenn's power-play hat trick leads Flyers past Stars for eighth straight win

Brayden Schenn's power-play hat trick leads Flyers past Stars for eighth straight win

A power play hat trick.
 
Now that is truly something you don’t see every day in hockey.
 
Brayden Schenn is one of the very few Flyers to ever do it.
 
“Third [goal] was a lucky play where he [Jakub Voracek] broke a stick,” Schenn said. “Right place at the right time.”
 
Schenn’s diving third goal at 17:45 gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead and insured their eight-game win streak Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center.
 
Only four other Flyers have had power play hat tricks in franchise history:
• Tim Kerr vs. Los Angeles, November 3, 1985
• Tim Kerr vs. Chicago, November 20, 1986
• Brian Propp at Minnesota, October 13, 1988
• Scott Hartnell at NY Islanders, January 19, 2008
 
Schenn pretty much doubled his offense in one game given he had just four goals coming in, and just one over his previous 13 games.
 
Think that’s something? 
 
Voracek had his second consecutive four-point game (empty net goal, three assists). The last Flyer to do that was Eric Lindros on Dec. 31, 1997 and Jan. 3, 1998.
 
Voracek has piled up 15 points during this Flyers streak. He’s got the blazing hot stick on this club right now.
 
“I don’t think I have necessarily changed my game,” Voracek said. “If I went without a point a couple weeks back, I’m not playing any different now. When you stick with it, work hard, the points eventually are gonna come.”
 
In this one, the Flyers changed up their power play moving Voracek into the right slot and having Schenn closer to the net on the opposite side.
 
“Sometimes it is open [the pass] and sometimes it’s not,” Voracek said of how team’s kill penalties. “Schenner had a free stick a couple times. I’m glad it worked.”
 
Just like other games during this streak, and the season itself, the Flyers had to come from behind. 
 
They trailed 1-0 early and 2-1 in the third period before Schenn scored back-to-back on the No. 2-ranked power play which went 3-for-6 on the day.
 
“Coming out in the third period, you see determination,” said coach Dave Hakstol. “That’s the word I would use. Just as an overall group, no matter what the situation is. Very tight, close hockey game all the way through.
 
“Different parts of our game have pushed us over the finish line on different nights. Most of our game was pretty good all the way through and when needed, the PP was the difference tonight.”
 
There’s a certain amount of confidence right now with the Flyers. Trailing doesn’t scare them. It invigorates them. They know it. They feel it on the bench.
 
“You have confidence that you’ve done it over and over again, you can do it again,” Voracek said. “It was a big chance to tie the game and we did. Big points for us. We never give up.”
 
The Flyers came into play two points behind second place Pittsburgh in the Metro Division.
 
Hakstol says Voracek’s play has been “pretty consistent” all season. 
 
“When you watch him most nights, very consistently without the puck, he is one of the hardest-working players getting back, reloading, getting on top of plays,” Hakstol said. 
 
“Coming out of the offensive zone.  When his line has the puck, or the PP unit, he is very confident in making plays.” 
 
The Flyers had just 21 shots in this one, including only five in the second period. Their offense came in bunches. 
 
Dallas had two goals from Devin Shore and led 2-1 at 10:32 of the final period before Schenn took over.
 
Steve Mason was the starter in net and looked fresher than he did against Edmonton. Mason starting was a surprise given this was the front end of a back-to-back. With Flyers playing in Detroit on Sunday, it seemed the perfect game to play Anthony Stolarz.
 
Give Mason a day of rest for a more important conference game tomorrow. 
 
Mason asked to play, however, and most coaches won’t say no to a goalie who has now won a career-high seven in a row.
 
“It was fun to watch from the back end there,” Mason said of the game. “Power play in general and two late goals to get us over the hump. 
 
“It’s fun right now to find different ways to come out on top. The boys aren’t satisfied. We keep pushing forward here.”