Bill Meltzer: Flyers Gameday: 12/9/14 @ CLB, Plus Flyers Alumni News

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PREVIEW: FLYERS @ BLUE JACKETS

Looking to end their four-game road trip with back-to-back wins and perhaps carry a little momentum into an upcoming four-game homestand, the Philadelphia Flyers (9-13-4) are in Ohio to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets (9-15-2). Game time is 7:00 p.m. EST. The game will be televised on CSN Philadelphia.

This is the third of five meetings between the teams this season, and the first of two in Columbus.

The clubs will rematch in Columbus on Feb. 13. Four nights later, the season series concludes in Philadelphia.

The Flyers and Blue Jackets played twice at the Wells Fargo Center in November.

On Nov. 14, the injury-riddled Blue Jackets snapped an 0-8-1 losing skid with a 4-3 regulation victory. Power play goals ruled the night, with Columbus going 3-for-4 and the Flyers going 2-for-3 plus a goal scored immediately as a power play expired. The game marked Scott Hartnell and R,J. Umberger’s first games against their respective former teams since being traded for one another in the offseason.

The loss to Columbus came on the heels of a five-night schedule break for the Flyers. Thereafter, Philly won only once in a span of 11 games. The lone win: a 3-2 home win over the still injury-racked Blue Jackets on Nov. 22. The Flyers next win would come on Dec. 6 in Los Angeles.

After this game, the Flyers finally return home for games against New Jersey on Thursday, Carolina on Saturday, Tampa Bay on Dec. 16 and the Florida Panthers on Dec. 18. The Blue Jackets have a road game in Washington on Thursday and then return home to play the Penguins on Saturday. Flyers outlook

The Flyers went 1-1-1 on the California portion of their four-game road trip. The club is 1-4-2 over its last seven games and 2-8-2 over its last 12 games.

The Flyers are coming off a 2-1 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. Goals by Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds — the same two scorers in a 2-0 win in LA last season — were just enough offense to win.

Steve Mason was spectacular in goal for the Flyers. He made 37 saves on 38 shots as the Flyers hung on for a 2-1 win. On Feb. 1 of last season, the Flyers beat LA by a 2-0 margin despite getting outshot 35-13 for the game, including a 27-9 disparity over the final 40 minutes. This time, the Flyers got outshot 38-16 for the game, including a 31-9 disparity in the third period. Mason the equalizer for Philly.

Simmonds has three goals in the last two games and leads the Flyers with 11 goals on the season. He and Giroux share the club lead with six power play tallies apiece. Jakub Voracek’s point-production pace has slowed down just a bit of late, but he is still third in the NHL scoring race (nine goals, 24 assists, 33 points). Giroux has 21 assists among his 29 points.

Defenseman Michael Del Zotto re-entered the Flyers lineup in Los Angeles after sitting out the previous two games as a healthy scratch. The Flyers are likely to use the same starting lineup in this game. If so, forward Vincent Lecavalier will be a healthy scratch for a fourth straight game. Defensemen Luke Schenn and Carlo Colaiacovo are also likely to be scratched. Blue Jackets outlook

The Blue Jackets’ win over the Flyers was a rare bright spot in a bleak month of constant injuries and losses. The second game against Philly, which the Flyers won, was more in tune with how things were going for Columbus in November.

Of late, however, Columbus has played better. Thus far in December, the club is 3-0-0.

The return of former Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky has been a big reason. In his three starts this month, Bobrovsky has posted a 1.62 goals against average and .956 save percentage. Last Thursday, he made 52 regulation and overtime saves in a 4-3 shootout win against Florida.

Columbus enters this game coming off a 3-1 win over Tampa Bay. Bobrovsky flirted with a shutout for nearly 59 minutes before Ondrej Palat finally scored for the Bolts. Bobrovsky finished with 33 saves on 34 shots. Goals by Boone Jenner, David Savard (power play) and Jack Skille provided the offensive zone.

Tonight, the Blue Jackets expect to have sparkplug/agitating forward Brandon Dubinsky in the lineup for the first time in the 2014-15 season after undergoing abdominal surgery.He is likely to center a line with Matt Calvert and Cam Atkinson.

Star center Ryan Johansen leads the team in overall scoring with 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) but has been held pointless in each of the last three games. Nick Foligno paces the team in the goal-scoring department with 11 goals and five power play tallies.

Hartnell has been slumping lately. The former Flyers has not scored a goal in his last 12 games, He was pointless in 10 straight games before registering one assist in each of the last two games. However, Hartnell is still third on the team in scoring with 16 points (5 goals,11 assists).

Columbus still has an extensive injury list. Artem Anisimov went down with torn triceps and will miss anywhere from eight to 12 weeks from Dec. 1. Defenseman Ryan Murray remains out after knee surgery. Cody Goloubef has resumed skating but is not ready to return yet from a knee injury. Mark Letestu will miss approximately six weeks from Dec. 2 after undergoing sports hernia surgery. Fedor Tyutin is still out with a knee injury (suffered in the first game against the Flyers) and could be out until late December. Key team stat comparisons (NHL overall ranking)

Non-shootout goals per game: Flyers 2.62 (17th), Blue Jackets 2.31 (24th)

Non-shootout goals against per game: Flyers 3.00 (23rd), Blue Jackets 3.35 (29th)

Even strength Goals For/Against Ratio: Flyers 0.88 (25th), Blue Jackets 0.64 (29th)

Power play efficiency: Flyers 23.3% (4th), Blue Jackets 21.9% (6th)

Penalty killing efficiency: Flyers 75.8 (27th), Blue Jackets 76.3% (26th)

Faceoff percentage: Flyers 51.4% (T-11th), Blue Jackets 48.2% (23rd) Projected lineups (Subject to change, will be updated)

FLYERS

12 Michael Raffl – 28 Claude Giroux – 93 Jakub Voracek

10 Brayden Schenn – 49 Scott Laughton – 17 Wayne Simmonds

18 R.J. Umberger – 14 Sean Couturier – 24 Matt Read

36 Zac Rinaldo – 78 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – 76 Chris VandeVelde

5 Braydon Coburn – 55 Nick Schultz

8 Nicklas Grossmann – 32 Mark Streit

15 Michael Del Zotto – 47 Andrew MacDonald

35 Steve Mason

[29 Ray Emery]

Scratches: Luke Schenn (healthy), Carlo Colaiacovo (healthy), Vincent Lecavalier (healthy).

BLUE JACKETS

38 Boone Jenner – 19 Ryan Johansen – 10 Jack Skille

23 Brian Gibbons – 71 Nick Foligno – 43 Scott Hartnell

11 Matt Calvert – 17 Brandon Dubinsky – 13 Cam Atkinson

26 Corey Tropp – 39 Michael Chaput – 40 Jared Boll

7 Jack Johnson – 58 David Savard

20 Tim Erixon – 21 James Wisniewski

3 Jordan Leopold – 47 Dalton Prout

Scratches: Kevin Connauton (healthy), Adam Cracknell (healthy), Kerby Rychel (healthy), Artem Anisimov (IR, torn triceps), Cody Goloubef (IR, knee), Ryan Murray (IR, knee surgeries), Mark Letestu (IR, sports hernia), Fedor Tyutin (IR, knee), Nathan Horton (LTIR, career-threatening degeneration of back).

*************** FLYERS ALUMNI NEWS FROM FlyersAlumni.org

* On Dec. 19, members of the Flyers Alumni family will travel to St. John’s Hospice (1221 Race St. in Philadelphia) to serve lunch to the homeless men who turn to the charitable institution. On a daily basis, St. John’s Hospice provides a nutritious and hot noon meal for more than 300 men each weekday. The hospice also provides counseling services, daily showers and clothing, and a mailroom.

* On Dec. 20, members of the Flyers Alumni will work together with Cityteam to deliver holiday gifts to less fortunate families in the Delaware Valley. On an ongoing basis, Cityteam provides support and basic daily needs to the poor and homeless. For information on how to donate or volunteer, call (610) 872-6865.

* The first Soviet-born and trained player to suit up for the Flyers, Andrei Lomakin, died on this day in 2006 after a long illness. The December 9, 2014 edition of Today in Flyers History offers a career retrospective of the well-respected two-way forward. Other items of historical note on this date include several 1970s games against rival powerhouse Boston, Eric Lindros’ 12th and final hat trick as a Flyer, a two-goal night for Danny Briere against Toronto in 2010, and a look at the brief Flyers career of Petr Nedved (born on this day in 1971).

* The first installment of the new monthly Flyers Alumni: Then and Now feature takes an in-depth look at the career and post-hockey life of Mikael Renberg.

* On January 17, 2015, the Flyers Alumni team will participate in the Center for Autism 3rd Annual Winter Classic benefit game in Aston, PA. Please come out to the Ice Works Skating Complex to help support this worthy cause. Related events include a silent auction and postgame meet-and-greet and autograph session with Flyers Alumni player.

* Other upcoming Flyers Alumni team games:

Dec. 14, 2014 Buck County Ice Sports, Warminster, PA (4:00 p.m.)

Dec. 28, 2014 vs. Cherokee Alumni. Flyers Skate Zone, Voorhees, NJ (3:30 p.m.)

Jan. 10, 2015: Ice Works, Aston, PA (7:30 p.m.)

March 7, 2015: University of Delaware Ice Arena, Newark, DE (7:00 p.m.)

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