Banged-up Blue Jackets host Flyers
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The next stop on the Philadelphia Flyers’ roller-coaster ride comes Saturday night at Nationwide Arena for a Metropolitan Division game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The up-and-down Flyers have gone through wild swings this season — with long, looping win streaks interspersed with some steep drops.
Philadelphia recently won six in a row before starting the week with a loss to the Los Angeles Kings. That was followed by a win over the Detroit Red Wings and then a 4-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.
The second game of a back-to-back against the Blue Jackets takes the Flyers into the holiday break. It will be their seventh game in 12 days.
Philadelphia jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first period in Buffalo but gave up two goals in the second period and two in the third to fall behind 4-1.
“You keep perspective on everything,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said, “But we’ve got to be better than we were (Friday night).”
Center Claude Giroux had two assists, giving him five points in the past two games, but Philadelphia couldn’t overcome the deficit in the final period.
“We couldn’t really make a play,” Giroux said. “They were putting a lot of pressure on us and we lost a lot of battles. It’s frustrating, but at the same time, we’ve got to put this one behind us and get ready for tomorrow.”
The Flyers (15-13-7) certainly would like to give themselves an early Christmas present and rebound with a win. So would the Blue Jackets.
Columbus (21-13-2) has gone through a bit of a struggle recently. Its record for the month is 5-5-1. Saturday’s game will be the sixth in the past 10 days.
The Blue Jackets hit a low point on Monday with a 7-2 loss in Boston. But they bounced back with a 4-2 win at home over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday and then suffered a tough 3-2 shootout loss to the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
“We found a way to battle back and get a point,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said.
Two of the Blue Jackets’ most productive players are defenseman Seth Jones, who has three goals and two assists in the past five games, and rookie center Pierre-Luc Dubois, who has scored three goals in the past five games.
One of the concerns for the Blue Jackets will be their health. Defenseman Zach Werenski has missed the past two games with an undisclosed injury, fellow defenseman Ryan Murray (upper body) is on injured reserve, veteran forward Brandon Dubinsky is out six to eight weeks with an orbital bone fracture, and center Alexander Wennberg left the game against the Penguins in the third period and didn’t return.
There’s also some uncertainty about forward Boone Jenner’s status after he received a game misconduct resulting from a skirmish at the end of the second period in Pittsburgh.
The Blue Jackets didn’t practice Friday and it’s unknown whether Werenski, Wennberg or Jenner will be available against the Flyers. Dubinsky definitely won’t play.
“The boys miss him on the bench,” Tortorella said of Dubinsky. “He’s a little bit of the heartbeat of our team, but we don’t have him. We’re probably not going to have him for a while here. So we have to just kinda make it work here.”
To shore up the roster after sending forward Sonny Milano back to Cleveland and possiby missing several lineup regulars, the Blue Jackets recalled left winger Tyler Motte from Cleveland of the American Hockey League and added left winger Jordan Schroeder on an emergency basis Friday.
Motte has three goals and one assist in 19 games with the Blue Jackets this season. Schroeder has two penalty minutes in eight games with Columbus.
Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to make his second straight start in goal for the Blue Jackets. He’ll have to contend with Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek, who leads the NHL with 36 assists and has 44 points, and Giroux, who is also among the league leaders in scoring.
The Flyers have enjoyed some success on the road this season, going 7-6-3 in 16 games and have allowed just 46 goals away from home. After Columbus, they have another back-to-back — against the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning — when they return from the Christmas break.
“When you have a bad game, you want to get right back into it,” Giroux said.