DESPERATE FLYERS 7 POINTS OUT OF PLAYOFFS WITH JACKETS TONIGHT

By Mary Cunningham

The Flyers are 14-3-1 in their last 18 games but they wake up this morning in Ohio seven points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second wild card playoff spot.

Cam Atkinson scored in his third straight game during Tuesday’s 5-2 setback to Pittsburgh to boost his goal total to a career high-tying 35, with four of those coming in three victories over Philly. Atkinson tallied twice in a 6-3 home win against the Flyers on Oct. 18 and a 4-3 triumph in Philadelphia on Dec. 22.

Atkinson isn’t the only Blue Jackets’ star to fluster the Flyers.

Sergei Bobrovsky turned aside 89 of 98 shots to win all three encounters against Philly, where he began his NHL career. The two-time Vezina Trophy recipient owns a sparkling 13-3-1 mark against the Flyers with two shutouts, a 2.10 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in 17 meetings.

Bobrovsky, however, followed back-to-back shutouts by yielding four goals on 26 shots against the Penguins. The setback put Columbus one point behind Pittsburgh for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Atkinson’s team-leading eighth power-play goal and Oliver Bjorkstrand’s second tally in three games were all the Blue Jackets could muster on Tuesday, much to the chagrin of coach John Tortorella.

“Throughout the game I don’t think we developed enough offense. Certainly the first period we didn’t develop any forechecking,” Tortorella said. “I don’t think we gave them much, but we certainly didn’t develop enough forechecking, which leads to us not developing enough offense.”

Philadelphia has been doing quite well with its offense of late, having totaled nine goals in victories over Pittsburgh and Buffalo to improve to 14-3-1 in its last 18 contests.

Captain Claude Giroux collected a goal and an assist in Saturday’s 4-3 win over the Penguins before repeating the feat three nights later in a 5-2 victory vs. the Sabres. Giroux has scored a goal and set up four others against the Blue Jackets this season.

Pending unrestricted free agent Brian Elliott, who is manning the crease in place of injured rookie Carter Hart, made 40 saves against the Penguins in his first start since sustaining a lower-body injury on Nov. 15. Elliott followed that up with 34 stops versus the Sabres.

“I feel good enough,” the 33-year-old Elliott said.

“Getting a couple wins definitely helps. If you’re not winning those, you’re probably not feeling as good about your game, things like that. We’ve had some goal support these last couple ones for me. That helps.”

James van Riemsdyk, who joined Jakub Voracek and Giroux in scoring in each of the last two games, praised Elliott for the way he has stepped up after considerable time off.

“It can’t be easy for a lot of those goalies, to be honest,” van Riemsdyk said. “It’s been tough. Some of them dealing with injuries and different things like that, and different people coming in and out …

“So he’s a good pro and he works at it and he has a good mindset. I think it allows him to have consistent success and be ready to go when his number is called.”

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