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Thursday, December 19th (All times Eastern)
Columbus Blue Jackets (14-16-4) at Philadelphia Flyers (15-15-4), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - Steve Mason will get a chance to face his former team for the first time, as his Philadelphia Flyers host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday in the opener of a home-and-home series.
Mason was a third-round draft pick by Columbus in 2006 and spent his first four-plus seasons in the NHL with the Blue Jackets before getting dealt to Philadelphia in April of this year. The 25-year-old goaltender had his best season in Columbus as a rookie in 2008-09, when he won the Calder Trophy and led the Blue Jackets to their one and only playoff appearance.
Although Mason struggled over his last four seasons with Columbus, the netminder has done well since joining the Flyers, and he is 12-9-4 with a 2.34 goals against average and .924 save percentage this season.
While Mason expects to get a crack at his old club tonight, the same can't be said for injured Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, a former Flyer who is expected to be out until at least early January with a strained groin.
Bobrovsky, who is also 25 years old, was traded by the Flyers to Columbus in the summer of 2012 and he made Philadelphia regret the move by winning the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender during last year's lockout- shortened season. However, even before getting injured, Bobrovsky was not off to a good start in 2013-14, going 10-11-2 with a 2.72 GAA and a .909 save percentage in 23 games.
In Bobrovsky's absence, Curtis McElhinney expects to start tonight after missing the previous two games due to a lower-body injury of his own.
A bruised and batter Columbus club enters Thursday with a handful of key players sidelined due to various ailments, including forwards Jared Boll, Marian Gaborik, Nathan Horton and Derek MacKenzie and defensemen James Wisniewski and Dalton Prout. Horton, who has yet to play for Columbus since signing a seven-year deal with the club in the offseason, could make his season debut on Saturday when the Blue Jackets host the Flyers. Gaborik, who hasn't played since Nov. 14 due to a knee injury, could also play in the return trip to Columbus.
Tonight marks the first of four meetings this season between the Blue Jackets and Flyers, who are now Metropolitan Division rivals with the onset of realignment. Philadelphia has won four of six overall against Columbus and the Blue Jackets have never won a road game in this series, going 0-4-0 with a tie in five all-time encounters in the City of Brotherly Love.
The Blue Jackets enter Thursday's meeting having lost two straight after beginning the month of December with four wins in five games.
Columbus recently went 0-1-1 during a brief two-game homestand, losing in overtime to St. Louis on Saturday before falling 3-2 to Winnipeg on Monday. Evander Kane's goal midway through the third period proved to be the difference for the Jets in their close win at Nationwide Arena.
RJ Umberger and Fedor Tyutin scored for the Blue Jackets, who had won six straight against the Winnipeg franchise before Monday's loss. Mike McKenna turned aside 29-of-32 shots for Columbus.
The Flyers, meanwhile, have won two of their last three tilts after splitting a home-and-home series against Washington. Philly dropped a 5-4 shootout decision in D.C. on Sunday after blowing a 4-1 third-period lead, but the Flyers rebounded with Tuesday's 5-2 home win against the Capitals.
With the scored tied at 2-2 late in the second period, Philadelphia was given a five-minute power play after Flyers forward Brayden Schenn was drilled by Washington's Tom Wilson, who was given a 10-minute misconduct for the charge. Although Schenn had trouble staying on his feet following the hit, he did not suffer a concussion and could even play tonight.
The Flyers made the Caps pay by scoring twice during the lengthy advantage, with Mark Streit and Jakub Voracek tallying the goals for Philly.
"Obviously it was a turning point in the game so very important for us to capitalize on the five minute major and the guys did a good job," said Philadelphia head coach Craig Berube.
Voracek scored twice to lead the Flyers on Tuesday, while Matt Read posted a goal and an assist. Mason turned away 24 shots to record the win for Philadelphia, which entered Tuesday having lost four of their previous five games.
12/19 11:16:11 ET