Jason Zucker trade, Seth Jones injury have impact on Flyers' chances in NHL playoff race


The crazy Metropolitan Division became even crazier in a span of 24 hours.

As the Flyers took care of business Monday night and prepared for another big game Tuesday night, they saw two notable headlines that could impact their playoff push.

On Monday night, the Penguins made a splash by acquiring winger Jason Zucker in a trade with the Wild. On Tuesday afternoon, the Blue Jackets announced defenseman Seth Jones underwent surgery for a fractured ankle and is expected to miss eight to 10 weeks.

Both news items apply to the Flyers, who entered Tuesday holding the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot and a 65.2 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to Hockey-Reference.com. The Flyers came into their road game against the Islanders only one point behind the Blue Jackets in the divisional race and four points back of the second-place Penguins.

Zucker is a quality addition for experienced Pittsburgh, which plays the Flyers once more on March 29 at the Wells Fargo Center. The 28-year-old scored 33 goals in 2017-18 and will complement Sidney Crosby on the Penguins' top line. Zucker is projected to finish with 20-plus goals for the fifth time in his career and has the chance to boost Pittsburgh's middle-of-the-pack power play.

The Blue Jackets, who have been a surprise postseason contender, suffered a blow with Jones' injury. The three-time All-Star has 30 points (six goals, 24 assists) and leads Columbus in ice time per game (25:17). No Blue Jacket has played more shorthanded minutes than Jones and only Zach Werenski has more power play points on the team.

The Flyers, who are already 2-0-0 against Columbus after losing all four meetings last season (0-2-2), play a home-and-home set with the Blue Jackets next week. They won't see Jones, who has six career goals vs. the Flyers, his most against any NHL team.

Will Columbus be able to weather the loss of Jones and stay in the playoff hunt? That's a valid question. Coming into Tuesday, six of the NHL's top 10 teams were from the Metropolitan Division.

Some traffic could clear for the Flyers because of Jones' absence. Never count out John Tortorella's team, though.

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