The Blue Jackets and Flyers meet for the third time in less than a month, but for the first time at Nationwide Arena, when the Blue Jackets will look to extend their winning streak to a season-long four games. The Flyers ride into Columbus for Tuesday night’s contest coming off an impressive 2-1 victory in Los Angeles, their first win in their last seven games.
The Flyers haven’t found consistency for much of the season despite have to two of the league’s most potent scoring threats in Jakub Voracek (third in points) and Claude Giroux (eighth). Add Wayne Simmonds and his 11 goals and the Flyers should not have much trouble scoring. It’s defensively where the Flyers have been challenged much of the season, with last year's deadline acquisition Andrew MacDonald sitting as a healthy scratch in recent games, not to mention Vincent Lecavalier.
The Blue Jackets have found success in their stockings this December, going 3-0-0 since the calendar flipped over with two wins over the Panthers and another over the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning. The Jackets are trying to climb back into the race, and may have learned some lessons on just how they’re going to get there. When they bring a solid and committed defensive game as they did in Tampa, they can skate with the better teams in the league. When they struggle to have their best like they did in Sunrise, they have an elite goaltender in Sergei Bobrovsky who is finding his game and has the ability to carry them.
Another boost to the lineup is on the way, with center Brandon Dubinsky set to make his season debut.
The Blue Jackets made their second trip to Wells Fargo Center this season on Nov. 22. The “Scott Hartnell Returns” storyline was in the past, and so was much of the intensity that accompanied it. The Jackets fell 4-2, their third loss in a six-game losing streak.
Brayden Schenn opened the scoring for the Flyers just 2:37 into the contest with a deflection of a Voracek shot. Boone Jenner responded two minutes later with a power play goal, his first goal of the season, to tie the game. The Blue Jackets wouldn’t muster much offense the rest of the way, out-shot 37-22 with only Matt Calvert’s third period goal mixed in amongst Flyers goals from Mark Streit, Wayne Simmonds, and Braydon Coburn. The win snapped a four-game losing skid for Philadelphia.
Without question, Brandon Dubinsky’s return to the lineup for Columbus is the game’s lead storyline. Dubinsky brings a physical edge and tenacity to the Blue Jackets’ lineup that few other players can produce, not to mention stability to the top-six. The Jackets have been fortunate enough to have top-line center Ryan Johansen healthy for the entire season, but they have been forced to shuffle to find a second line pivot with Dubinsky injured all season, and both Artem Anisimov and Mark Letestu missing significant stretches. In Dubinsky, the Jackets get grit back in the lineup, timely offense, and perhaps most importantly for this group, a solid face-off man (52.9 percent in 2013-14).
Boone Jenner has found the back of the net in three straight games. The Jackets knew they were going to get a boost from Jenner’s return, but his nine points in 15 games has made him an offensive leader for the club. A lot of that damage has simply been a product of getting shots to the net and being in a position to capitalize on mistakes. “I’m just trying to throw stuff at the net and create secondary chances,” Jenner said. Another product of that success has been capitalizing early in periods, with Jenner scoring in the first three minutes of periods in the past two games. Jenner brings energy out of the gate, and he’s adding a scoring punch as well in an amplified offensive role.
Whose turnaround is real?
The Flyers came away with a win in Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon that owner Ed Snider called a “turnaround” for his team. It was a solid win on the road against one of the tougher opponents in the NHL to snap a six-game skid. The Blue Jackets were busy themselves that night, winning their third straight game on the road against a difficult Eastern Conference opponent in what many viewed as a possible corner-turning game. Both teams have struggled to find consistency, both teams are lower in the standings than they envisioned this summer, and both are counting on big Decembers to get back in the hunt. Which team will step up on Tuesday night, with the Jackets two points back of the Flyers in the standings?