Spying on the Saboteur: Philadelphia Flyers at Columbus Blue Jackets

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Flyers

Tonight is the final meeting between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Columbus Blue Jackets as the Flyers travel to Columbus. The Blue Jackets were on the losing end of a 5-1 result in Philadelphia on Tuesday. A rematch in back-to-back games gives the chance for Columbus to either soften the blow of that loss to the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center, or the opportunity for Philadelphia to extend their lead into a higher seeding in the Metropolitan Divison. On Tuesday, Elvis Merzlikins was pulled in the third period. Tonight, the Flyers are interested in pulling out of reach of the New York Islanders in the Metropolitan Division standings.

What is important for the Philadelphia Flyers is establishing early dominance. At home on Tuesday, the Flyers scored twice in the first five minutes for the first time this season. If Philadelphia can establish dominance and win tonight in Columbus, this will be the first season-sweep of a Metropolitan Division opponent since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2014-2015. The Columbus Blue Jackets are currently on a six-game losing streak, a season-high. On the road, this is a grand opportunity for the Flyers to kick a team while they are at their lowest.

Defending the net tonight for the Philadelphia Flyers is Brian Elliott, who relieves Carter Hart after three consecutive starts. For the Columbus Blue Jackets, Elvis Merzlikins will get another crack at the Flyers. Over the last ten meetings, the record is split 5-3-2. Philadelphia has received at least a point in seven of the last ten games against the Blue Jackets. On the injury report, Columbus still lists Cam Atkinson (sprained ankle) and Joonas Korpisalo (torn meniscus.)

Columbus Blue Jackets – Skaters

Offensively, I’m shifting away from Oliver Bjorkstrand this game and am focusing on Pierre-Luc Dubois. After highlighting Bjorkstrand last game, he did score the only goal against the Philadelphia Flyers and Carter Hart. Dubois is the leading scorer on the Columbus Blue Jackets and is tied for second on the team in game-winning goals, which account for four of his 44 points this season, Dubois is a playmaker before a goal-scorer. Of those points, 27 are assists, and of his nine powerplay points, eight are assists.

Defensively, let’s talk about Vladislav Gavrikov. Previously, I highlighted Zach Werenski who leads NHL defensemen in goals scored. Gavrikov is going to bring a physical presence to the ice tonight alongside David Savard on his defensive pairing. With Seth Jones still missing due to injury, Gavrikov has become the third most physical defender on the Columbus Blue Jackets. Look for the Blue Jackets to dial up the body checks tonight after the loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.

Columbus Blue Jackets – Goaltending

Elvis Merzlikins looked anything like “the King” between the pipes on Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center. Kevin Hayes banked a goal off of Merzlikins and Sean Couturier had him flopping like a fish out of water on an off-speed puck. That game held weight because the Philadelphia Flyers are claiming a Metropolitan Division playoff spot while the Columbus Blue Jackets are now tied for a wildcard spot with the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Islanders. After the loss to the Flyers, Merzlikins now has a 12-9-6 record this season. He carries a 92.4% save percentage and allows an average of 2.29 goals per game.

Faceoff Possession

One team has a winning percentage in the faceoff circle that exceeds 50%. The Columbus Blue Jackets are at 48.7% while the Philadelphia Flyers maintain 54.2%. On the Blue Jackets, the best faceoff opportunist is Boone Jenner. For the Flyers, they look to Sean Couturier. The advantage here stays with Philadelphia.

Prediction

Brian Elliott had a rough outing in his last start against the New York Islanders, but the circumstances were a little different. He played a lot in the time that Carter Hart was recovering from a rib injury. With rest, I’m rolling with the Philadelphia Flyers to get the win on the road. Elliott has been solid on the road this season between the goaltender tandem. Philadelphia may be listed as the underdogs on the road tonight, but that’s a bet that I take.

Puck drop is at 7 pm from the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. The Columbus Blue Jackets are favorited on the money line at -120 and the over/under is set at 5.5. Follow along for live coverage on Twitter at EricReesePSN and additional coverage at PhiladelphiaSN!

Mandatory Credit – © Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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