The Flyers and Blue Jackets were headed in two different directions at the trade deadline.
The Flyers were pushing for first place in the Metropolitan Division, while Columbus was attempting to climb its way back into the wild card after looking like a playoff lock for much of the season. At the time, the two teams were separated by nine points.
Thursday, the Jackets can pull into a tie for third place with the Flyers with a regulation win at the Wells Fargo Center. They've made up seven points on the Flyers in the first two weeks of March.
“We came into this year with our focus pretty clear, knowing that it’s a hard fight to get in,” Dave Hakstol said. “It’s a great time of year to be right in the middle of that fight and to control our own destiny and that’s what you want to have.”
Interestingly, Columbus made the big, bold moves you’d expect from a team in the Flyers' position at the deadline and the Flyers remained quiet after previously addressing their goaltending dilemma out of necessity. The Blue Jackets added Mark Letestu, Thomas Vanek and Ian Cole, and all three have solidified their lineup.
Not big-name acquisitions but solid additions to an already established core. In turn, Columbus brings a five-game winning streak to South Broad.
“We want to give our team the best possible chance to make the playoffs," Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen said after the deadline. “That’s the goal. Adding the veterans we added will give us a better chance. We like our team right now.”
“They’re rolling right now, playing some good hockey and they’ve got momentum,” Claude Giroux said. “It’s important for us to get off to a good start in here, and get the fans on our side.”
Jakub Voracek believes the Flyers' magic playoff number is 92 points, which would seem manageable, a number that requires just 11 points over the team’s final 12 games.
“It’s all in our heads — the schedule, the points, everything,” Voracek said. “We know we have our destiny in our hands, and we just have to focus on ourselves. Obviously, it helps that we’re playing Columbus tomorrow. We know what it is about them.”
“It’s definitely the biggest game of the season, we know that,” Giroux said. “Sometimes you just can’t overthink it. You've got to go out there and play the game. If you don’t enjoy it, you’re not going to play your best.”
Now longest tenured
With the Eagles' release of Brent Celek, Giroux now holds the title as Philadelphia’s longest-tenured athlete. Giroux debuted on Feb. 19, 2008, against Ottawa.
“I did not know that,” Giroux said Wednesday. “It doesn’t feel that long. I mean, I’m a little old. It’s been 10 years, it feels like five. Teams change quick. We have a lot of the players we had in 2012, but from 2010, we don’t have any guys. I guess we have [Ian Laperriere], but he’s coaching now.”