BLUE JACKETS (14-16-4) at FLYERS (15-15-4)
TV: FS-O, CSN-PH
Last 10: Columbus 5-4-1; Philadelphia 5-3-2
Season series: The Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets open a home-and-home set Thursday in Philadelphia that will continue Saturday in Columbus. Their game Thursday marks the first time they've played since Nov. 5, 2011, when the Flyers got goals from eight players in a 9-2 win in Philadelphia.
Big story: Flyers goalie Steve Mason spent his first five NHL seasons with the Blue Jackets, and will have a chance to face his former team for the first time Thursday.
After a stellar rookie season that saw him lead the Blue Jackets to the franchise's only Stanley Cup Playoff appearance and win the Calder Trophy, he had more downs than ups over the following four seasons. He lost his starting job to Sergei Bobrovsky last season and was traded to the Flyers in March.
Since his arrival in Philadelphia, however, Mason has looked more like he did in his rookie season. In 26 games this season he's 12-9-4 with a 2.34 goals-against average and .924 save percentage.
"From talking to [Mason] I know he's feeling confident and he's feeling like this is the best he's ever played," Blue Jackets forward RJ Umberger told the Columbus Dispatch.
Blue Jackets: Marian Gaborik and James Wisniewski practiced with the team Wednesday, but neither will be available against the Flyers on Thursday. That could change when the teams shift to Columbus for a re-match Saturday.
Gaborik has been out since Nov. 14 with a sprained knee, while Wisniewski last played Dec. 6 due to an upper-body injury. The hope is one or both could get back in the lineup Saturday.
At practice Wednesday, Gaborik skated on a line with rookie Boone Jenner and Artem Anisimov.
"I felt pretty good," Gaborik told the Dispatch. "Maybe I need just one more practice. That's the main thing, to have confidence that I can go full-out. I think this was a good practice and I think Saturday I will be good to go. I just need one more practice to make sure everything is fine."
Richards said he isn't willing to rush either player back into the lineup.
"When guys are close obviously you're hoping for them to come back," he told the Dispatch. "We had a good practice [Wednesday] and both guys looked good in practice. But I think there are different movements where they still don't feel comfortable in getting into a game. You don't want to put players out when they're not 100 percent in their mind. Neither felt 100 percent, so that's the reason."
Flyers: Brayden Schenn admits he's lucky to feel OK after absorbing a hard hit from the Washington Capitals' Tom Wilson during the Flyers' game against the Caps on Tuesday, and said there's a chance he'll be able to play Thursday.
Schenn was sent face-first into the boards by Wilson late in the second period. Schenn fell to the ice three times while trying to skate off, and then finally was able to leave the ice on his own, with trainer Jim McCrossin accompanying him. He did not return to the game and had what the Flyers called an upper-body injury.
A day later, however, Schenn said he felt good, "better than I thought. A little bit of a stiff neck, but as far as head-wise I feel good. Obviously that's a good sign. I went hard, head-first into the boards, and luckily walked away with probably the best thing possible."
Schenn expressed optimism he wouldn't miss any time. He sat out the team's optional practice Wednesday but planned to take part in the morning skate Thursday.
"We'll wait and see, and hopefully I get better each day," he said. "We'll see how [Thursday] goes, when I wake up and how I feel."
Who's hot: Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen has four goals and seven assists during his nine-game point-scoring streak. … In three games since being put together, the Flyers' top line of Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Michael Raffl have combined for six goals and eight assists.
Injury report: In addition to Gaborik and Wisniewski, the Blue Jackets will be without forwards Nathan Horton (shoulder), Cody Bass (thumb), Jared Boll (ankle) and Derek MacKenzie (lower body), defenseman Dalton Prout (upper body) and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (groin). Goalie Curtis McElhinney (lower body) is questionable. … Flyers forward Vincent Lecavalier (back) is out. Schenn (neck) is questionable.
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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