Flyers-Blue Jackets: 5 things you need to know


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.

Flyers Notes: Wayne Simmonds defends hit on Andrei Markov

Flyers Notes: Wayne Simmonds defends hit on Andrei Markov

MONTREAL — Wayne Simmonds didn’t feel he did anything wrong. Or that he even touched Andrei Markov.
Thing is, however, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety may have a different view of it come Tuesday morning.
Early during first-period play Monday night, the Flyers' winger came out of the penalty box after serving a minor for holding and cross-checked Markov from behind.
The Canadiens' defenseman went face-first into the boards and fell to the ice, where he appeared to try and sell a penalty. Nothing came of it, but the hit will likely be reviewed anyway.
“I barely touched him,” Simmonds. “When you got a bunch of guys diving all over the place, what are you going to do? Stand on your feet.”

There were a number of tough hits from both sides in the Flyers' 3-1 loss to the Canadiens (see game recap). It was evenly played and the Flyers deserved a point.
“We played a solid game,” Simmonds said. “Obviously we lost and it’s not what we wanted, but we have four more games this week.
“We go home and we've got to be focused on the positive things that we did and carry it over the rest of the week.”
Gudas eligible
Radko Gudas has yet to play a real game this season.
The Flyers' bruising defenseman has been serving a six-game suspension for a careless hit in Boston that closed out exhibition play earlier this month.
Tuesday night, the Flyers will play the back end of a back-to-back against Buffalo at the Wells Fargo Center and Gudas likely will return to the lineup now that his suspension has ended.
“It seems like forever,” Gudas said. “I could use more games behind me. I think I’m ready with my conditioning and skill level, so I can’t wait to get back in there.”
The decision as to who comes out will be difficult. A good guess right now would be Nick Schultz.
“We've got the information at this point,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “It will be a tough decision, no question, if we are healthy.”
At some point — Nov. 5 — Michael Del Zotto will be eligible to come off LTIR. That means another veteran blueliner would become available and an even bigger problem will arise because Del Zotto carries a $3.875 million cap hit.
Barring injury or trade, when Del Zotto returns, the Flyers will have to move two players off their roster entirely just to be cap compliant.
For now, following Monday’s loss, Hakstol has to decide whether to stick with his current defense or put Gudas back in. Given the Flyers have missed Gudas’ physical presence — teams have taken liberties on smallish rookie Travis Konecny — it makes sense to reinsert Gudas.
“Obviously, teams are going to take advantage of smaller guys,” Gudas said. “I would love to be out there if anything happened. All the guys here are responsible and I think they did a pretty good job defending that. It’s not happening a lot.”
No, but it’s happened enough that the Flyers should take note of it.
Hakstol said his decision does not have to come until Tuesday.
“That’s not to say we haven’t looked at things and thought about the [issue], but that decision comes after tonight,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gudas finally has come to the conclusion that the NHL is watching his every hit.
“They’re looking at me since Day 1 I got here,” he said. “The guys made up their minds. I have to make sure I don’t give them an opportunity to call again.”
Maybe he should change his ringtone to say, “Player Safety calling.”

Loose pucks
Simmonds and Matt Read saw their four-game goal-scoring streaks come to an end. ... The Flyers were credited with 39 hits, the most they’ve had since 41 in a home game against Montreal on Jan. 5, 2016. Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and Schultz were credited with five apiece. ... Ice-time leaders: Ivan Provorov (21:31), Shayne Gostisbehere (21:27) and Brandon Manning (20:36). … Boyd Gordon was 10 for 12 (83 percent) on faceoffs. ... Jakub Voracek had five shots, giving him 21 overall, which ties him for 10th in the league. His goal gave him eight points and ties him with five other players for fourth in the NHL.

Flyers' solid effort against Canadiens not enough in road loss

Flyers' solid effort against Canadiens not enough in road loss


MONTREAL — It was at least a point in the taking.
A valuable point against the best team in the Eastern Conference, being preserved for the Flyers by goalie Steve Mason.
Despite an outstanding road effort and 30 saves from Mason, it wasn't enough Monday night at Bell Centre as Les Canadiens defeated the Flyers, 3-1 (see Instant Replay).
“We were right there, same as other games this year in the third period,” Jakub Voracek said. “We got scored on from the power play. It happens.”
Brendan Gallagher’s tip at 13:08 on the power play was the difference. Thing is, Boyd Gordon, who won 10 of 12 draws, cleanly directed the draw but it went right to Shea Weber — a faceoff loss — with Alexander Radulov unleashing a wicked shot.
“Sometimes you go against a righty and get jammed and it was more towards their winger,” Gordon said. “I bumped it back. A mix-up up top. Too bad because the PK was good.”
The Flyers have nothing to be ashamed of after Monday's effort. They deserved a better fate. If they continue to play like this, the victories will come.
“I thought Mase played really well but I thought our team played really well,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We didn’t have to steal anything. Our team played a real solid road game and it always starts with your goaltender.”
Mason had four point-blank shots he denied in this game.

“We definitely wanted to come in here and get two points and it’s disappointing with the loss,” Mason said. “Nice thing is, we can get right back at it tomorrow [against Buffalo].
“It was a close game overall and both teams had chances to go ahead. They capitalized on a couple bounces there and that’s the ebbs and flows of the game. They found a way to win and we didn’t.”

On the game-winner, Mason was expecting the one-timer from Weber but instead the former defenseman, who came over during the summer in a controversial trade for P.K. Subban, gave it off to Radulov.
“He shot it and I had a good line on it,” Mason said. “Gallagher was able to get his stick on it there and it changed directions on me.”
Curiously, Montreal had four power plays in this game to the Flyers' one despite the evenness of play across the board with the exception of the slot, where Montreal had better chances.
Sean Couturier’s tripping call on Torrey Mitchell was inadvertent, setting up the crucial late power play.
“It was a pretty well-played third period,” Hakstol said. “Tough penalty we ended up getting called on.
“Not much Coots could do. He was dragging his stick to break up the play. It’s a penalty when the stick goes between the legs.”
The Flyers owned much of the second period. While Mason handled a number of rushes right into the crease, he was felled by a point drive from Weber that stanza. 
Weber’s shot was so hard it broke Brayden Schenn’s stick. Yet, the simple truth was Mason was screened out completely by Andrew MacDonald.
Eleven of the Flyers' 13 shots on Carey Price came via five-on-five play that period, most of it contained in the period’s latter third when they were rewarded.
Voracek had a ferocious shift with an open shot in the slot that Price denied, but he kept the puck alive and earned his third goal with a tip of Claude Giroux’s drive from the high slot to make it 1-1.
Voracek has three goals in six games during this first month. He didn’t get his third goal last season until Dec. 19 at Columbus — 33 games.
“Second period is usually the most offensive one,” Voracek said. “It’s too bad we only generated one goal.
“As a game on the road in a tough building against a team that [has lost once], we can be happy the way we played.”