PHILADELPHIA — By Thursday it will have been 775 days since the Flyers faced the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Say hello to a new rival.

“I haven’t played Columbus in two years,” Flyers right wing Wayne Simmonds said. “It’s a little different calling them division opponents.”

That would be the newly formed Metropolitan Division.

Thursday also marks the first time Steve Mason faces his old team, but what’s more important is the four points at stake over the next couple days with the home-and-home games.

With teams packed tightly in the Metropolitan Division, any games against divisional opponents could quickly change the picture. Every Metropolitan team except for the Islanders was within three points of a playoff spot heading into Tuesday’s action.

“When someone’s hot, everyone’s hot,” Simmonds said. “When someone’s cold, everybody’s cold.”

The Flyers have another home-and-home, this time with Columbus, and a home game against Minnesota before a break for Christmas.

“All these points are huge,” Simmonds said before Tuesday’s home game. “We’ve got to get as many points as we possibly can.”

It’s easier this season than last to make up ground because of the schedule. Last year, in a lockout-shortened season, every game was within the conference. Many were interdivision.

“I don’t want to say it’s easier,” Simmonds said, “but you’re playing teams from the West and it’s possible that a team in your division that you’re battling with directly ahead of you loses a point last night. Fortunately they’re not playing a team in your division where they gain points. It’s not working doubly against you.”

Luke Schenn likes the full-season schedule, also.

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