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Flyers-Blue Jackets Preview @NHL

After dropping the opener of a six-game road trip to the league's hottest team, the Philadelphia Flyers should probably find things easier on their second stop.

The Flyers continue their longest road stretch of the season on Saturday night when they try to remain perfect all-time against Ken Hitchcock's Columbus Blue Jackets, who are trying to avoid being shut out for the third straight game.

Philadelphia (19-9-7) has never lost to Columbus (14-16-4), winning four games and tying three others. The Flyers won the last meeting 3-2 on Nov. 24, 2006 in Hitchcock's debut with the Blue Jackets - a month after he was fired eight games into his fourth season with Philadelphia.

The Flyers lost 5-1 to Chicago on Friday, becoming the eighth straight team to fall to the surging Blackhawks. Philadelphia's players opted to spend Christmas Day with family, but the team's flight to Chicago on Friday morning was delayed and didn't arrive until noon.

Coach John Stevens, though, refused to use that as an excuse.

"I thought we were cheating all over the ice," Stevens said. "We ended up taking too many penalties."

Mike Richards scored in the first period for Philadelphia, which had its three-game winning streak snapped. The Flyers had one shot in the second period, by Aaron Asham, to tie a franchise low.

"That's unacceptable," winger Joffrey Lupul said. "We've got a lot of guys who are shooters and like to get to the net."

Philadelphia will see another familiar face Saturday when center R.J. Umberger faces the Flyers for the first time since they dealt him to Columbus on June 20.

Umberger, who led the Flyers with 10 goals in last season's playoffs, was traded partly because he was a free agent and Philadelphia had salary cap issues. He signed a four-year contract with Columbus on July 7.

Columbus needs Umberger and his linemates to get untracked after another shutout loss, 3-0 to Los Angeles on Tuesday. The Blue Jackets also fell 2-0 at Phoenix last Saturday.

Steve Mason stopped 39 shots on Tuesday for Columbus, which had won its last five at home.

"Other than our goaltender, we were poor today," Hitchcock said. "He's the most resilient guy on our hockey club and he's a great goaltender. He'll play good again on the 27th and we'll play better."

Mason has been the lone bright spot in another dismal season for the Blue Jackets. His 1.98 goals-against average leads the NHL, but the 20-year-old is getting tired of having to carry the club.

"We're not scoring enough to win right?" Mason said. "So, in order for us to win we'd have to pitch a shutout every game too, so it's hard."

Hitchcock refused to blame the defeat on the loss of rookie center Derick Brassard, who will miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury that will require surgery scheduled for early January.

Brassard has 25 points - second on the club to Rick Nash's 29.

"This has nothing to do with skill or Derick Brassard being out of the lineup," Hitchcock said. "It has everything to do with our competitive level."

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