Jackets, Flyers to battle in first game of home-and-home

NHL
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The tables have turned on the formerly white-hot Columbus Blue Jackets, who answered a scintillating 18-2-3 run by dropping five in a row (0-2-3).

The Blue Jackets look to avert a season-worst losing streak on Tuesday in the opener of a home-and-home series against the host Philadelphia Flyers.

Columbus’ latest loss was not for a lack of trying, however. The Blue Jackets unleashed 55 shots on goal in their 4-3 shootout setback to New Jersey on Sunday.

“I need to be careful,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “You can’t get frustrated. I thought for a big part of that game we developed our offense and had good checking. We just have to stay with it.”

Oliver Bjorkstrand set up Kevin Stenlund’s game-tying tally in the third period on Sunday to extend his point streak to four games (two goals, two assists). Bjorkstrand has recorded 12 of his team-leading 19 goals over his past 15 contests.

Zach Werenski netted his NHL-best 18th goal by a defenseman for the Blue Jackets, who are clinging to the top wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

“The season is still long. We have 20-something games, so we still have time,” rookie goaltender Elvis Merzlikins said. “… I believe and I know my teammates are going to fight and we are going to do beautiful things.”

The Flyers, who sit one point behind the Blue Jackets, defeated their Metropolitan Division rival in their first two meetings of the season.

Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux (three goals, six assists) and fellow forward James van Riemsdyk (four goals, four assists) each carry a five-game point streak into Tuesday’s tilt.

Giroux, who has collected a goal and an assist against the Blue Jackets this season, matched those totals on Saturday as the Flyers attempted to overcome a three-goal deficit before dropping a 5-3 decision to Tampa Bay.

“As far as believing in this group and always working hard and trying to do the right things, there’s no doubt we’re trying to do that,” Philadelphia coach Alain Vigneault said. “We’ll go home; we just finished a challenging stretch here of five or six games in five or six different cities. We’re going to go home, rest up, and get ready for Columbus.”

Van Riemsdyk has tallied in back-to-back contests to boost his goal total to 18, one shy of Travis Konecny for the team lead. The 30-year-old van Riemsdyk has recorded two goals and two assists versus the Blue Jackets this season, including a three-point performance in the Flyers’ 7-4 romp on Oct. 26.

“I think we’ve been playing well as a team lately,” van Riemsdyk said of the Flyers, who are 9-4-1 in their past 14 games. “The big games keep coming up. Two with Columbus this week is going to be huge. Just gotta keep moving forward.”

The teams will conclude their regular-season series in Columbus on Thursday.

–Field Level Media

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