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Flyers' Timonen returns, ready for 'playoff mode'

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Flyers will have one of their most important players back in the lineup when defenseman Kimmo Timonen returns Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Timonen sat out Philadelphia's 1-0 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday with an upper-body injury after being hit in the chin by a puck in their shootout loss to the Boston Bruins on Sunday.

"It's always good to have him," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "He's a great player, a very good player for us. Power play, penalty kill, 5-on-5. He's a very good player, so when he's out of the lineup we miss him."

Timonen, 39, is second among Philadelphia defensemen with 32 points in 71 games; in 14 games since the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics he has three goals and 10 assists.

"I like this time of year," Timonen said. "The sun is up. We get right into playoff mode, every game matters. It's easier coming to the rink when you know you have to play your best. Especially after the Olympics. I knew there were tough games coming up and it was a tough schedule. Anytime it gets under 20 games it's really easy to play."

Also returning to the Flyers lineup will be goalie Steve Mason, who starts against the Blue Jackets on the one-year anniversary of Columbus trading him to Philadelphia.

The Flyers will be looking to rebound from back-to-back shootout losses, and with a four-point lead on the Blue Jackets for third place in the Metropolitan Division know they can pad that cushion with a strong effort Thursday.

"They're right on the same side as us," Berube said. "The three games we've had with them this year were very tough games. They're a very good team over there, they work really hard, young guys, enthusiastic. They play a tough game."

The Blue Jackets also will be hoping to get back to winning after blowing a 2-0 third-period lead Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche and losing 3-2 in overtime. They also need to start picking up points in a hurry; they enter Thursday with a one-point lead on the Toronto Maple Leafs and two ahead of the Washington Capitals for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"We'd like to push up as high as we can," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "We'd love to get second and have home ice. We aren't just coming in here thinking we just want to get in the playoffs. We want to fight and get up as high as we can."

The Blue Jackets will have Sergei Bobrovsky in goal to help that effort. It will be Bobrovsky's first game back in Philadelphia, the city where he started his NHL career.

"I had two years here and they were great years for me," he said. "They treated very well so I really appreciate them for that. [Thursday] is a huge game and we need two points, Flyers need two points. It's going to be a big game."

Drawing back into the Columbus lineup is another former Flyers player, forward RJ Umberger, who returns after being a healthy scratch the past two games.

Here are the projected lineups for the Blue Jackets and Flyers:


Boone Jenner - Ryan Johansen - Mark Letestu

Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson

Nick Foligno - Artem Anisimov - RJ Umberger

Blake Comeau - Derek MacKenzie - Jared Boll

Jack Johnson - Dalton Prout

Fedor Tyutin - James Wisniewski

Nick Schultz - David Savard

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Matt Frattin, Corey Tropp

Injured: Nathan Horton (lower body), Nikita Nikitin (lower body), Ryan Murray (knee)


Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek

Tye McGinn - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds

Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Michael Raffl

Zac Rinaldo - Vincent Lecavalier - Adam Hall

Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn

Mark Streit - Nicklas Grossmann

Andrew MacDonald - Luke Schenn

Steve Mason

Ray Emery

Scratched: Jay Rosehill, Erik Gustafsson, Hal Gill

Injured: Steve Downie (upper body)

Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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