Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Marian Gaborik (10) celebrates an empty net goal during the third period against the New Jersey Devils at Nationwide Arena. Columbus beat New Jersey 4-1.
Russell LaBounty/Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
At least one of two former Columbus Blue Jackets is certain to make his return to Nationwide Arena on Saturday night with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Columbus is hopeful that getting two key players back will help it recover from a collapse in the opener of this home-and-home set.
Marian Gaborik and James Wisniewski are set to play for the Blue Jackets against a Flyers team that features former Columbus stars Steve Mason and Jakub Voracek.
Columbus (14-17-4) seemed certain to tie Philadelphia (16-15-4) in the standings and end the Flyers’ seven-game home win streak Thursday as it took a 3-0 lead into the third period and was up 4-2 with five minutes left. The Blue Jackets allowed three goals over the remainder of the contest, with Claude Giroux scoring the equalizer with 3:46 left and adding the winner 2:08 later.
"We’re looking forward to playing these guys again," Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson said. "We blew it here tonight and we’re looking forward to redeeming ourselves."
Mason faced his former team for the first time, making 25 saves. He was destined for the loss before Philadelphia’s five-goal outburst in the final 20 minutes.
"Made this night pretty special," Mason said. "It’s a difficult game for a goaltender to be a part of something like that, with the goals going in. But there’s nights like these that come along every so often where your team bails you out."
It’s uncertain whether Flyers coach Craig Berube will start Mason or backup Ray Emery. Mason has not been back to Columbus since he spent nearly five seasons with the club, which traded him to Philadelphia on April 3. He won the Calder Trophy in 2008-09 by going 33-20-7 with a career-best 2.29 goals-against average.
That represents the Blue Jackets’ lone season to end in the playoffs and also featured another emerging rookie in Voracek, who was fourth on the team with 38 points before he had a career-high 50 for Columbus in 2009-10.
Voracek was traded to the Flyers on June 23, 2011, and this marks his first game as a visitor in Columbus. He had a goal and two assists Thursday to extend his point streak to six games (six goals, four assists).
The Blue Jackets activated Gaborik and Wisniewski off injured reserve Friday. Gaborik hasn’t played since Nov. 14 due to a knee injury and Wisniewski has missed the last six contests with an upper-body injury.
Columbus will try to slow down the red-hot Giroux, who had two goals and two assists Thursday to give him 10 points in a five-game run.
The Flyers are 0-2-2 in their last four on the road.
"Going into Columbus, they’re going to be frustrated, they’re going to want to play hard and they’re a team that’s pretty physical so we’ll have to be ready to go," Giroux said.
The Blue Jackets will likely give Curtis McElhinney a second straight start. McElhinney, filling in for injured former Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, returned Thursday after missing two games with a lower-body injury.
Philadelphia winger Brayden Schenn was back on the ice after he left Tuesday’s 5-2 win over Washington after crashing headfirst into the boards due to a hit from behind by Tom Wilson. The Caps forward received a 5-minute major and ejection for charging.