The Blue Jackets begin an important stretch tonight at Wells Fargo Center, where their meeting with the Philadelphia Flyers is the first of four games in six nights – all four against stiff Eastern Conference competition.
First on the agenda is the fifth and final engagement of the season with the Flyers, and to this point, the Blue Jackets have fared well. Columbus brings a 3-1-0 series record into tonight’s game, with two straight overtime victories (courtesy of Kevin Connauton on Dec. 9 and, most recently, Artem Anisimov on Friday night) to go along with a win in Philadelphia on Nov. 14.
Both teams have been playing well of late, the Blue Jackets having won three out of five and the Flyers riding a nine-game points streak after a 2-1 victory in Buffalo on Sunday. The goaltending matchup is likely to be the same as it was at Nationwide Arena five days ago, with Curtis McElhinney and Ray Emery squaring off between the pipes.
“These teams match up well with one another,” Richards said. “There are some different reasons, too, with ex-Blue Jackets and ex-Flyers – that always creates some emotion in the game. In games (against the Flyers) we’ve found ways to win hockey games, whether it’s our goaltender playing really well…when we were in here early on, our power play was really clicking at that time.
“They’re coming home, they haven’t been home here in a little while and the building’s going to have some good energy. This is a big game, and there are a lot of different reasons why this is going to be a big game for both sides.”
GIBBONS IN THE CLEAR
When the Blue Jackets placed Brian Gibbons on waivers yesterday, their intention was to get him through the wire to assign him to Springfield. Gibbons cleared waivers today at noon, giving the Blue Jackets some flexibility with their roster.
For now, they have activated him off injured reserve and, as expected, sent him to the Falcons. That means the Blue Jackets’ roster now sits at the maximum of 23 players after Marko Dano was recalled.
FOLIGNO OUT, DANO IN
The injury issues that have plagued the Blue Jackets all season are well-documented, but one player to avoid it (to this point) has been Nick Foligno. Foligno has been one of the team’s most consistent players all season, leading the Blue Jackets in goals (22) and points (52) – but they will be without him tonight against the Flyers.
Foligno missed practice on Monday for maintenance, but he has a lower body injury that will keep him out of tonight’s lineup. He’s considered day-to-day for now, leading to a big opportunity for Corey Tropp. Tropp practiced in Foligno’s spot yesterday, taking right wing shifts on a line with Ryan Johansen and Scott Hartnell and it appears as though that’s where he will start tonight’s game.
Dano will draw in and play with a familiar face in Artem Anisimov, whom he played with in the preseason and early on in the regular season. Richards said Dano’s name is one that’s been coming up in conversations with Springfield’s coaches of late.
“As far as his play and his consistency and the level that he’s been playing at, he’s the guy that deserves the opportunity,” Richards said. “When he was first here, he made the team out of camp and did some really good things for us. He’s not an overly big guy, but he can play with an edge and he can be physical and he has enough skill where he can make plays.
"Tonight, I’m expecting him to come out and play with some energy, play that physical game and when there’s opportunity to make plays, I know he’s got the skill and ability to make plays.”
Here are the projected forward lines for the Blue Jackets tonight: Hartnell-Johansen-Tropp, Calvert-Dubinsky-Atkinson, Anisimov-Wennberg-Dano, Skille-Letestu-Boll.