NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Thursday, January 23rd
(All times Eastern)
Philadelphia Flyers (25-20-6) at Columbus Blue Jackets (25-20-4), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - Sergei Bobrovsky gets a chance to face his former team
for the first time when his red-hot Columbus Blue Jackets welcome the
Philadelphia Flyers for Thursday's battle at Nationwide Arena.
Bobrovsky was signed by Philadelphia as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and he
spent two seasons with the Flyers before being traded to Columbus in the
summer of 2012. Although he was primarily a backup with the Flyers, he made
Philadelphia regret the move by winning the Vezina Trophy as the league's top
goaltender during last year's lockout-shortened season.
The 25-year-old Russian did not get off to a good start in 2013-14, but has
played his best hockey of the season since returning in early January from a
month-long absence due to a groin injury. Bobrovsky has won his last eight
starts and has been a major reason Columbus is currently on a club-record
seven-game winning streak.
Bobrovsky anchored his club's most recent victory, stopping 26 shots in
Tuesday's 5-3 win over the visiting Los Angeles Kings. R.J. Umberger scored
twice to help the Blue Jackets break their previous record of six straight
wins set between March 24-April 3, 2006.
"We have a lot of confidence right now and that makes it easier," said
Ryan Johansen, Nathan Horton and Artem Anisimov also scored for the Blue
Jackets, who have vaulted themselves into the final playoff spot in the
Eastern Conference. The Blue Jackets are currently tied for the last spot with
Columbus has qualified for the postseason just one time in its history and
that was back in the spring of 2009, when they were swept out of the first
round by the Red Wings.
While Bobrovsky gets to face his former club for the first time on Thursday,
it's unclear if ex-Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason will get the
opportunity to play his first game back in Columbus. Mason started Wednesday's
3-2 home loss against Carolina and Ray Emery could get the call with the
Flyers playing this evening on consecutive days.
Mason won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie with the Blue Jackets
back in 2008-09, but struggled for the next three-plus seasons before getting
traded to Philadelphia late last season. He is 19-12-5 with a .915 save
percentage and 2.57 goals against average in 2013-14, signing a three-year
contract extension last Saturday.
The 25-year-old Mason stopped 25 shots in Philadelphia's 5-4 home win over
Columbus on Dec. 19. That game was the opener of a home-and-home series and
the Blue Jackets answered two days later with a win over the Flyers at
Nationwide Arena. Emery yielded five goals on 28 shots in Philadelphia's loss
on Dec. 21, while Bobrovsky missed both games due to his groin injury.
The Blue Jackets' win over the Flyers last month was only their third victory
in the last eight meetings in this series. However, it was the club's third
straight win over Philadelphia on home ice.
The Flyers have lost two straight, three of four and five of their last seven
games. Philadelphia was able to tie the Hurricanes after falling behind 2-0 on
Wednesday, but Jiri Tlusty's goal with 6:10 left in the third proved to be the
game-winner for Carolina.
The contest was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but a winter storm caused
the game to be postponed a day.
Andrej Sekera fired a shot from the point that Mason could not control. Tlusty
gathered the puck and lifted the rebound into the net to give Carolina a 3-2
edge with a little over six minutes remaining.
Claude Giroux had a goal and an assist, while Scott Hartnell supplied the
other marker. Mason allowed all three goals on 32 shots as the Flyers lost
their second straight game by one goal.
"We're just not playing our best hockey for the first 10 to 15 minutes and
then we turn it up after that. It's biting us in the butt, you're not going to
be able to do that for the rest of the year," said Wayne Simmonds.
Simmonds extended his point streak to five games and he has two goals and six
assists during that stretch.
Philadelphia, which is 12-11-5 as the road team this season, is just two
points ahead of the Blue Jackets in both the Metropolitan Division and
01/23 10:49:39 ET