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Flyers vs. Blue Jackets preview: Closing in

Both teams tonight are on the brink of making the playoffs and need some points to seal their spots in the postseason. Can the Flyers shake off their recent woes and put the Blue Jackets in their place?

Al Bello

The Flyers look to get one step closer to sealing their playoff hopes in a matchup against another team on the bubble of making the post-season.

After a nice surge that no one really expected, the Flyers have cooled off. They've lost two in a row, both thanks to the dreaded shootout, which, for the record, is the worst. But despite the fact that they left two points on the table this week, there's a lot to be happy about.

For starters, they were able to hold their own for 65 minutes against two of the best NHL teams in the Blues and the Bruins. I can't say I expected them to put up a legitimate fight in either of those battles, so maybe the team is playoff worthy.

Hopefully, that encouraging play will pay off with a victory tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are far less skilled than our recent foes.

Columbus Blue Jackets (38-30-7, 83 pts) at Philadelphia Flyers (39-27-9, 87 pts)
7 p.m. | Wells Fargo Center | South Philadelphia
TV: CSN Philly, FS Ohio | Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic
Get the Columbus perspective at The Cannon

I know we've been beating this dead horse for a while, but the Flyers really need to win tonight. In order to ensure a playoff berth (as of now), they need to get seven points in the remaining seven games. A win tonight would be a good way to start.

Columbus has been interesting the past two seasons. Instead of finishing off in the basement of the Eastern Conference, they've had legitimate playoff hopes. Last year they just missed the playoffs, getting edged out by the Minnesota Wild despite being tied in points. This season, they might just do that to an opposing team.

This year, they admittedly seem more suitable for a playoff berth. They've put up decent enough possession statistics throughout the second half of the regular season, and have seemed to pull away from their historically sub-par play. Sure, Sergei Bobrovsky's performance has dropped off a bit from his Vezina-caliber efforts last season, but he's a definite upgrade over their former goaltender (who was that, again?).

While we're on the subject of players, it's worth noting that Ryan Johansen has emerged as a top-level talent. The center currently has 30 goals and 55 points this season, which are by far the best he's put up in his career. That's certainly encouraging to see, particularly considering he was far from stellar in last year's shortened season.

Another player who seems to have put up a decent enough season is none other than James Wisniewski. Back when then general manager Scott Howson signed Wisniewski to a huge contract, we all kind of took it as yet another example of Howson's incompetence. Wisniewski isn't an elite player or anything, but he isn't an anchor for the team either. Maybe our ridicule of Howson was premature.

As for team stats, Columbus is noticeable in that they are remarkably average. Their power play, penalty kill, goals for, and goals against rank them right smack dab in the middle of the NHL. I suppose that's not too surprising given their position in the rankings. Regardless, these middle-of-the-road stats will be a welcome change for the Flyers given their recent schedule.

Columbus is coming off a 3-2 overtime loss against the Avalanche in which all three Colorado goals bounced off Blue Jackets players before going into the net. I imagine that after that type of embarrassment, they'll be hungry for a win.

No word on the starting goaltenders, but I'm betting on Steve Mason and Sergei Bobrovsky, because how do you pass on that matchup?

Game starts at 7. Columbus sucks. Go Flyers.