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 Umberger.
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 Detroit.
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 conference standings.
01/23 10:49:39 ET