Last Friday’s preview focused around a struggling Blue Jackets team looking to avoid a 10th straight loss and visiting an up-and-down Flyers team that seemed to be starting to figure things out. A week later, the two teams have switched roles, with the Blue Jackets getting points in three of their past four and the Flyers losers of four straight.
The Flyers still feature one of hockey’s best lines with Claude Giroux centering Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds. But recently the Flyers' effort has been questioned more than their talent, with GM Ron Hextall vocally challenging his team within earshot of the media after a frustrating 2-0 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
“We didn’t come out hungry enough. We didn’t play very well. We’ve got to be a lot better than that. I just said I was very disappointed,” said Hextall.
The Flyers' next outing was a 3-2 loss at home to Minnesota, surrendering the game-winning goal in the final minute. Beyond losing the game, the Flyers also added to their injured list. Chris VandeVelde left the game and is day-to-day with a lower body injury and Michael Del Zotto missed the game with an injury sustained against the Rangers.
The Blue Jackets ended their losing skid with a 4-3 victory over the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center a week ago. The game marked Scott Hartnell’s return to Philadelphia, but James Wisniewski and Nick Foligno stole the show. Both players scored a pair of goals on the night, with both of Wisniewski’s coming on the power play. Wisniewski’s second goal, on a lengthy 5-on-3 advantage, proved to be the game-winner.
The Flyers managed to keep pace offensively with two power play goals of their own form Giroux and Voracek, as well as a Del Zotto goal early in the third period. Curtis McElhinney held the fort however, and he earned his first win of the season.
Nick Foligno found the back of the net twice against the Flyers in Philadelphia. He also has three goals and five points in his last four games, and he can play any game you want to play. Foligno can make plays out of the corner, he’s patient off the rush, and he’s an effective finisher around the goal. At the same time, Foligno will set the physical tone and drop the gloves when the time calls for it. Foligno has been the straw that stirs the drink for the Blue Jackets this season and has been involved in just about everything.
Voracek was one of the hottest players in the NHL when these teams met last. A week later, not much has changed. Voracek had a goal and an assist against the Blue Jackets and has eight points in the last five games. He only has seven goals on the season (not that that’s a small number through 18 games) but his line mates are right there with him. Wayne Simmonds has seven goals and Claude Giroux has six. So when Voracek isn’t scoring himself, it’s because he’s setting someone else up to finish the job. Voracek has been held off the sheet twice all season.
Columbus PP vs. Philadelphia PK
The Blue Jackets have one of the league’s best power plays (fourth overall entering Friday). The Flyers have one of the worst penalty kills (29th). Can we take that at face value? The Blue Jackets power play has a variety of weapons, including newly-acquired defenseman Kevin Connauton when he’s in the lineup. The Flyers have given up power play goals in four straight games (eight total). The Blue Jackets’ power play earned them a win in their last visit to Philly, and they should be looking to exploit it once again.