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BLUE JACKETS (14-16-4) at FLYERS (15-15-4)
TV: FS-O, CSN-PH
Last 10: Columbus 5-4-1; Philadelphia 5-3-2
Season series: The Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets open a home-and-home set Thursday in Philadelphia that will continue Saturday in Columbus. Their game Thursday marks the first time they've played since Nov. 5, 2011, when the Flyers got goals from eight players in a 9-2 win in Philadelphia.
Earlier this week, it looked as if both Marian Gaborik and James Wisniewski would return to the lineup Thursday, but both players are now looking at Saturday night to get back in the mix. Neither player made the trip to Philadelphia with the Blue Jackets but they're hopeful to suit up in the second half of this weekend's home-and-home with the Flyers.
There is some positive news between the pipes: Curtis McElhinney got through practice on Wednesday and felt good, and all signs point to him starting Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Sergei Bobrovsky, early in his rehab of a groin injury, skated on his own at the OhioHealth Ice Haus on Wednesday is what's considered a positive first step on the road back.
It's been a while since the Blue Jackets and Flyers got together for a hockey game. Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, their last memory isn't a good one.
That was November 2011 at the Wells Fargo Center, a game the Flyers controlled from start to finish and the final score serves as supplementary proof: Philadelphia lead 5-0 after the first period and went on to win 9-2, one of the more lopsided games in Blue Jackets history and one that won't go in any scrapbooks if you're from Columbus.
And somehow it seems fitting that their next meeting comes as Metropolitan Division rivals in the first of two games in the next 48 hours; the Blue Jackets and Flyers will face off Thursday at Wells Fargo Center and then Saturday night at Nationwide Arena. There's plenty to look forward to and digest, beginning with two ex-Jackets on the Flyers roster and one of which could very well be one of the main reasons the Flyers have turned their season around after a sluggish start that resulted in a coaching change.
Of course, that would be Steve Mason, the 2009 Calder Trophy winning goaltender with the Blue Jackets who was traded to Philadelphia last spring. Mason has played well so far this season for the Flyers, with a 12-9-4 record and 2.34 goals-against average, which has been plenty good enough to give the offensively-gifted Flyers a chance to win every night.
And then there's Jakub Voracek, who's now in his third season with the Flyers and currently their second leading scorer with 19 points in 34 games. On the other side, it hasn't been a shabby start whatsoever for RJ Umberger, who's been part of a really solid line for the Blue Jackets and has scored some key goals this season for Columbus.
For as much talk as there's been surrounding the Blue Jackets-Penguins potential rivalry and also with the Rangers, don't sleep on the thought of something developing with the Flyers. They're an abrasive team - much like the Blue Jackets - and they like to get under the opposition's skin. One thing is for sure: it will be interesting to see what happens when they butt heads four or five times a season.
VS. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
SATURDAY, 7 P.M.