Flyers host Blue Jackets in key matchup
(SportsNetwork.com) - A key battle in the Eastern Conference playoff chase is on tap Thursday, as the Philadelphia Flyers host the Columbus Blue Jackets in the regular-season finale between the clubs at Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers currently hold the third of the Metropolitan Division's three automatic bids to the playoffs with 87 points, leaving them four points ahead of fourth-place Columbus for that distinction. Both teams have seven games left in the regular season, including Thursday's showdown in South Philly.
The Blue Jackets are aiming for only the second playoff spot in franchise history. Columbus is currently one point in front of Toronto for the last postseason berth in the East, but the Jackets own two games in hand over the Maple Leafs, who host Boston on Thursday.
Detroit is only one point ahead of Columbus for the first of the conference's two wild card spots, and the Red Wings are idle on Thursday.
The Blue Jackets have taken the last two meetings with the Flyers after Philadelphia posted a 5-4 home win on Dec. 19. Both of Columbus' victories over the Flyers in 2013-14 came at home, but the Blue Jackets have never won in Philly, going 0-5-0 with a tie in five all-time encounters at Wells Fargo Center.
Columbus has picked up a point in each of its last two outings, but the club also lost for the fourth time in six games when it dropped Tuesday's 3-2 overtime setback against visiting Colorado.
The Blue Jackets held a 2-0 lead over the Avalanche after 40 minutes on Tuesday, but Columbus evened the score with a pair of goals in the third stanza. Gabriel Landeskog tied the game with 4:57 left in regulation and also was credited with the OT game-winner for Colorado.
Landeskog recorded the tying goal with just under five minutes left in the third. He capitalized on Colorado's only power play of the game when his pass intended for Nathan MacKinnon went off Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson and into the back of the net with 33 seconds showing in the extra session.
"We're happy to at least get a point. Every point counts," an otherwise disappointed Johnson said.
Sergei Bobrovsky made 25 saves while Blake Comeau and Cam Atkinson scored for the Blue Jackets, who were coming off an overtime win over Carolina.
Columbus is on the road for one night on Thursday before returning to Nationwide Arena for a three-game homestand, which is set to begin tomorrow against Chicago. The Blue Jackets are 18-16-3 as the guest this season.
The Flyers have lost two straight tilts, but also have gained a point in three consecutive outings. Philadelphia lost its last two contests in the shootout phase, giving the Orange and Black four losses over its last five games.
After rallying to force overtime in Sunday's 4-3 home loss to Boston, the Flyers dropped a 1-0 shootout setback Tuesday in St. Louis. Ray Emery notched a shutout for Philadelphia by posting 28 saves through overtime, but T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk beat the veteran goaltender in the decisive phase.
Oshie opened the game's final segment with a backhander under the crossbar at the left post, and Shattenkirk ended it to start the third round with a low, hard slapper from the slot. In between, Ryan Miller stopped Vincent Lecavalier and Claude Giroux.
"We played a good hockey game and got a point out of it," said Philadelphia head coach Craig Berube. "Of course we want two points, but you can't do that if you don't put it into the net."
The setback in St. Louis marked the fourth time the Flyers were shut out this season and the first time since dropping a 2-0 decision in Minnesota on Dec. 2.
Philadelphia is 23-13-2 as the host this season. After Thursday's game, the Flyers will play four of their next five away from the City of Brotherly Love.
The Flyers expect to have defenseman Kimmo Timonen back on Thursday after he sat out Tuesday's game with an upper-body injury.
Columbus forward Nathan Horton and defenseman Nikita Nikitin expect to miss Thursday's game due to lower-body issues. Horton missed Tuesday's game versus Colorado, while Nikitin was injured in that contest.
04/03 11:06:25 ET