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MELTZER: Head-to-Head, Home-and-Home

All you need to know ahead of the biggest two games of the season thus far

by Bill Meltzer @BillMeltzer /

The Flyers and the Columbus Blue Jackets will wrap up their regular season series with one another on Tuesday and Thursday with a home-and-home set. 

The two games will have major implications in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Entering Tuesday's game at the Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers trail the Blue Jackets by one point (CBJ: 72 - PHI: 71) in the race for the upper wildcard spot in the East. At maximum, there could be an eight-point swing if both games are decided in regulation. 

In the event of a points tie at the end of the season, the two teams are currently tied in the primary tiebreaker category of regulation wins (23-23). The secondary tiebreaker, regulation plus overtime wins, favors Columbus (30-27).

Here's a primer to get you ready for the home-and-home set:

The Flyers are 2-0-0 thus far this season against the Blue Jackets. It certainly hasn't been easy, however. The Flyers staged come-from-behind victories in both games they've played against Columbus this season.

On Oct. 26 at the Wells Fargo Center, Philly trailed 4-2 midway through the third period and then put on a 5-goal blitz to skate off with a 7-4 victory.

Kevin Hayes put the Flyers ahead to stay with a dramatic shorthanded breakaway goal at 14:24. High in the Philadelphia zone, Hayes picked off a D-to-D pass from Cam Atkinson intended for Ryan Murray. On the breakaway, Hayes went to his backhand then back to his forehand. Joonas Korpisalo made the initial save with his pad, but Hayes stayed with the rebound and flipped it over the goalie.Video: CBJ@PHI: Hayes steals puck, scores SHG to break tie

Jakub Voracek (1g-2a), Hayes (1g-2a) and van Riemsdyk (2g-1a) all had three-point games for Philadelphia. Apart from Gostisbehere, the Flyers also got goals from Michael Raffl (empty net) and Travis Konecny (power play).

Brian Elliott was not at his best in this game. Nevertheless, he earned the win with 22 saves on 26 shots. At the other end of the ice, Philly generated 45 shots on Korpisalo plus the Raffl empty-netter.

The teams next met at Nationwide Arena on Nov. 27. 

Recovering from a pair of early one-goal deficits, the Flyers went on forge ahead and then withstand a third period push from Columbus Blue Jackets in a 3-2 win.

Tyler Pitlick and Scott Laughton answered to first period goals by Nick Foligno (and Seth Jones as the Flyers erased early 1-0 and 2-1 deficits. The Flyers failed to convert on any of three first-period power play and then a fourth at the beginning of the third period but the fifth time was the charm as a left-circle shot by Claude Giroux found its way past Korpisalo (19 saves on 22 shots).

Elliott took it from there. The veteran netminder made 15 saves in the third period -- and stopped 28 of 30 overall -- to nail down the win.Video: PHI@CBJ: Elliott makes great between the legs stop
In Tuesday's game in Philadelphia, the goaltending matchup could switch. The Flyers may go with Carter Hart, while Columbus may tab rookie sensation Elvis Merzlikins.

Columbus is winless in its last five games (0-2-3). A big part of the reason for the Blue Jackets' recent struggles has been key injuries in the line. The team's No. 1 defenseman, Seth Jones, underwent surgery on Feb. 11 to repair a fractured ankle. His expected to miss eight to 10 weeks. 

In the absence of Jones, who shoulders a huge ice time burden in all game situations, the Blue Jackets have struggled to rearrange their blueline to adequately fill in for Jones' absence. Zach Werenski is now the Blue Jackets' No. 1 defenseman in lieu of Jones.

Blue Jackets right winger Cam Atkinson is expected to be out two to three weeks after suffering an ankle injury vs. the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 8.  

For the Flyers, Gostisbehere has been working on recovering from Jan. 14 arthroscopic knee surgery. He appeared in one game and then exited the lineup again. The team has lost the services Oskar Lindblom for the season as he undergoes treatment for Ewing's Sarcoma. Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder) may increase his level of participation in practice this week but is still not close to being cleared for game action. 

The Flyers have been one of the NHL's most formidable teams on home ice this season, boasting a 19-5-4 record at the Wells Fargo Center. On the road, the team is 13-15-3. The Blue Jackets have done the opposite to some degree, posting a 12-7-9 road record but having sustained 11 regulation losses at home (18-11-3 overall). 

Here's a look at where the two teams stand in their key underlying statistics for the season:

Goals per game:  
- Flyers (3.19, tied for 10th in NHL)
- Blue Jackets (2.58. 28th)

Goals against average: 
- Flyers (2.92, 11th)
- Blue Jackets (2.45, 2nd)

Power play: 
- Flyers (19.7%, 16th)
- Blue Jackets (16.1%, tied for 25th)

Penalty kill: 
- Flyers (82.0%, 10th)
- Blue Jackets (83.0%, 7th)

- Flyers (54.2%, 1st)
- Blue Jackets (48.7%, 24th)

Shots on goal per game: 
- Flyers (31.8, tied for 13th)
- Blue Jackets (32.5, 9th)

Shots against on goal per game: 
- Flyers (28.5, 1st)
- Blue Jackets (29.7, 4th)

Total shot attempt differential (Corsi): 
- Flyers (51.6%, 6th)
- Blue Jackets (49.2%, 19th)

Expected goals differential: 
- Flyers (50.5%, 15th)
- Blue Jackets (52.61%, 7th)

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