With playoff positioning at stake, the Columbus Blue Jackets look to avoid a seventh straight defeat in the back end of a home-and-home set against the visiting Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night.
Travis Konecny had a goal with two assists, and Carter Hart made 28 saves as Philadelphia rolled past visiting Columbus 5-1 on Tuesday night. While the Flyers are amid a 10-4-1 stretch, the Blue Jackets are 0-3-3 following a 9-0-1 run.
Columbus will also be trying to avoid a four-game season sweep at the hands of the Flyers.
The Flyers and Blue Jackets are in the mix for a playoff spot in the tight Eastern Conference, whether among the top three teams in the Metropolitan Division or as wild-card participants. However, only Philadelphia, one point ahead of Columbus, is playing like a playoff team at the moment.
Perhaps this contest can be a springboard for the Blue Jackets, who have been held to 10 goals in the last six games.
“We’re in our home building. It is a big game for us,” Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski told NHL.com. “We know what the standings are right now. It is going to be a lot of fun playing at Nationwide (Arena) again, and we are looking forward to it.”
While it’s nice to be home, the Blue Jackets are 0-2-1 there following a six-game winning streak. The Flyers won 3-2 at Columbus on Nov. 27, sandwiched between a pair of home victories in the season series, in which they own a 15-7 scoring advantage.
Philadelphia scored often despite recording a season-low 15 shots on goal Tuesday.
“I honestly don’t think it was one of our best games,” Flyers forward Kevin Hayes, who posted his 18th goal Tuesday, told NHL.com. “Obviously, the score doesn’t say that, but we should be better next game.
“But, I think we definitely didn’t have our A-game.”
Hart has had his A-game for the most part while going 3-1-0 with a 2.03 goals-against average this month. Backup Brian Elliott, meanwhile, has a 3.69 goals-against average while losing two of his last three starts, but he is 2-0-0 vs. Columbus this season.
Elvis Merzlikins was pulled in the third period Tuesday after allowing four goals on 12 shots for Columbus. With Joonas Korpisalo still recovering from injury, Merzlikins has yielded seven goals in his last two starts. Rookie Matiss Kivlenieks, who finished Tuesday’s game in net, is 1-0-2 with a 2.41 goals-against average for the Blue Jackets.
Oliver Bjorkstrand secured his second straight 20-goal season Tuesday for Columbus, which is minus key injured contributors Seth Jones and Cam Atkinson — both dealing with ankle issues. Bjorkstrand has three goals with two assists during a five-game point streak, and he has a point in three straight home contests against the Flyers.
Konecny has a career-high 51 points this season, with two goals and three assists coming vs. Columbus. Teammate Claude Giroux, who had two assists Tuesday, has 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in his last six games. He’s posted four goals with nine helpers during a nine-game point streak vs. Columbus.
–Field Level Media