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Game Preview #27 - DUUUUUUUUUUBE!!

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Winners of three in a row, the Blue Jackets return home and get a much-needed extra boost with the return of Brandon Dubinsky.

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Flyers at Columbus Blue Jackets

December 9, 2014 - 7:00 pm EST
Nationwide Arena - Columbus, Ohio
Radio - WBNS 97.1 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponent's Blog: Broad Street Hockey

OK, so this game is just loaded with intrigue and story lines. It is NOT to be missed. Brandon Dubinsky is back! Steve Mason is finally going to start a game in Columbus for the Flyers! R.J. Umberger! Scott Hartnell! These two teams both have very similar God-awful records!

While that last one is ultimately the most important part of this game, to not acknowledge those other story lines is to do this game a bit of disservice. Never before has a December game in which both teams are far, far out of a playoff spot held so much interest.

Record-wise, these two teams are very, very similar. Columbus is actually playing .500 hockey in their last 11 games (5-5-1), which includes an 0-5-1 stretch. If you subtract the 0-8-1 stretch when the injuries all happened at once and Columbus just kept getting kicked in the nuts, this team is actually 9-7-1. Think about that. Obviously, you can't just take that out, but it tells me that this team is a little better than their record shows right now. Add Dubinsky back into that mix, and a suddenly nuclear-hot Sergei Bobrovsky, and I think it would be pre-mature to continue talking about The Tank. At least until the All Star Break.

To that larger point, standings-wise, the Jackets are now just two points behind Philly, who has seen their record drop from 7-5-2 to 9-13-4 in their last 12 games. Before winning their last game on Saturday, they were riding a 1-8-2 stretch. If Columbus were to win this game in regulation the two teams would be so, so tied that it would go to the FOURTH tie-breaker, which would keep Philly in front. That's to say, at this point in the season, they'd be tied for sixth. Considering where Columbus was just a short week ago, that would be pretty huge, and would continue to illustrate that the 3rd Metro playoff spot is still within hailing distance: Columbus is only eight points out. On December 1, they were 12 points out. It just goes to show that a modest winning streak actually makes hay in this crap-fest that is the Metro. If Columbus can keep winning a few more than they lose, they're actually not out of this thing just yet.

As for this game, I'm excited to see what Dubinsky can do. He brings so much to the table in the faceoff circle, on defense, on the PK, and even on the PP if he gets any time there. He allows the Jackets to better find offensive starts and minutes for their "scoring" lines. I'm still not sure about this whole Foligno-at-center thing, but having Dubinsky with Calvert and Atkinson should help spread out the defensive responsibility and scoring responsibility.

And finally, for Columbus fans, they get the chance to let Steve Mason know how they feel. Not sure what kind of reception Umberger is going to get, but I think we should remember that he gave his all for A LOT of shitty teams while he was here, and even though his exit was less than glorious, he was one of the guys that actually cared for a long time when it seemed like no one else did.

Enjoy this one, gang. It should be a great night!

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(9-15-2, 20 Points; 7th division, 14th conference)

Scott Hartnell Nick Foligno Brian Gibbons
Boone Jenner Ryan Johansen Jack Skille
Matt Calvert Brandon Dubinsky Cam Atkinson
Corey Tropp Michael Chaput Jared Boll
Jordan Leopold Dalton Prout
Jack Johnson David Savard
Kevin Connauton James Wisniewski
Sergei Bobrovsky
Curtis McElhinney

Philadelphia Flyers
(9-13-4, 22 Points; 6th division, 13th conference)

Michael Raffl Claude Giroux Jakub Voracek
Brayden Schenn Scott Laughton Wayne Simmonds
R.J. Umberger Sean Couturier Matt Read
Zac Rinaldo Chris VandeVelde Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
Nicklas Grossmann Mark Streit
Nick Schultz Braydon Coburn
Michael Del Zotto Andrew MacDonald
Steve Mason
Ray Emery

Season Series

11/14/14 - Columbus 4 at Philadelphia 3
11/22/14 - Columbus 2 at Philadelphia 4
12/09/14 - Philadelphia at Columbus
02/13/15 - Philadelphia at Columbus
02/17/15 - Columbus at Philadelphia

Head to Head Stats

Philadelphia Columbus
2.62 (17) GPG 2.31 (24)
3.00 (23) GAPG 3.35 (29)
23.3% (4) PP% 21.9% (6)
75.8% (27) PK% 76.3% (26)
Wayne Simmonds, 11 G leader Nick Foligno, 11
Jakub Voracek, 24 A leader Ryan Johansen, 16
Jakub Voracek, 33 Pts leader Ryan Johansen, 25
Zac Rinaldo, 33 PIM leader Jared Boll, 42
3-9-2 Road/Home 4-8-1
2-6-2 Last 10 4-5-1
12/6 @ Los Angeles, W 2-1 Last Game 12/6 @ Tampa Bay, W 3-1