Flyers-Blue Jackets Preview
GAME: Philadelphia Flyers (17-3-6-1) at Columbus Blue Jackets (8-14-3-1).
TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m. EST.
The Philadelphia Flyers tune up for a critical home-and-home series as they
try to remain unbeaten against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Philadelphia is 2-0-2 all-time against Columbus, and enters this matchup
with a league-best 41 points. The Blue Jackets are tied for the fewest points
in the Western Conference with 20, but that does not mean Flyers coach Ken
Hitchcock will let his team take this game lightly despite what lies ahead.
Following Wednesday's matchup, Philadelphia faces two of its most important
games of the season with a home-and-home series against the New Jersey Devils.
Philadelphia has a seven-point lead in the Atlantic Division over the
defending Stanley Cup champion Devils, who beat the Flyers 3-2 on Oct. 30 in
the rivals' first meeting of the season.
"It's a tough part of the schedule, and we knew that going in," Hitchcock
said. "The spirit has been here with our team all year. Every team is now
lined up to kick our (butts). We're going to get every team's A-game for the
next 10-to-12 weeks, and we just have to be ready for it."
Hitchcock's club improved to 13-1-3 in its last 17 games with a 3-2 comeback
victory over Montreal on Monday.
Magnus Ragnarsson and John LeClair scored 2:06 apart late in the third
period as the Flyers improved to 1-0-1 on their four-game road trip.
"We have a lot of confidence in all our players," LeClair said. "We knew
that if we stayed with it, hopefully we could turn things around. We didn't try
anything crazy to try to get back in it, we just stayed with it and it worked
out for us."
Jeff Hackett made 36 saves in his second straight start as Robert Esche
rested a pulled groin. Hackett made 39 saves Saturday in a tie at Boston and
will likely start against the Blue Jackets -- the first time this season he will
start three consecutive games.
The two goaltenders have shared equal time in net and have combined for a
1.85 goals-against average, the third-best team average in the league. Antero
Niittymaki was called up from the minors to back up Hackett, appearing in the
NHL for the first time on Monday.
The Blue Jackets are glad to return home after losing 5-1 at Colorado on
Saturday, recording the longest road winless streak in team history at 11 games
Rick Nash scored in his fifth straight game and has 10 goals in his last
nine, but Columbus allowed three power-play goals while going 0-for-6 with the
"Obviously, there's a lot of urgency in our speeches and in our talk right
now about getting that first (road) win under our belt and getting going
here," coach Doug MacLean said. "That's not the way it's going to happen."
The Blue Jackets are 1-4-1 in their last six overall.