VOORHEES, N.J. – Steve Mason is feeling good.
The Flyers' goaltender woke up Wednesday with no physical limitations, feeling fine after seeing his first game time in almost two weeks. He played the final 7:15 of the Flyers’ 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers Tuesday night (see story).
However, he still doesn’t know for sure whether he’ll start in net for Game 4, Friday at the Wells Fargo Center.
“I have no expectations,” Mason said. “If Chief [coach Craig Berube] says I’m in, then I’ll be ready.”
Mason practiced once again Wednesday with the Flyers’ coaching staff and a handful of players. If he’s called upon to start Friday, he says he’ll be prepared – despite not having started a game since April 12, and not playing a complete game since April 8.
While it’s impossible to perfectly replicate game situations in practice, Mason believes he’ll be sharp enough to play in Game 4 thanks to the work he’s put in since returning from the upper-body injury that kept him out of the lineup for the series’ first two games.
“The things that Reeser (goalie coach Jeff Reese) and I have been working on I think have really helped,” he said. “Just little things throughout the season that he notices in the game that can simplify things, we’ve been working on, and I think that will transpire right into the game.
“Playoff games have a different intensity, more is on the line, but I don’t think I’ll have too much trouble picking up.”
Unsurprisingly, Berube said he has yet to make the decision on which goaltender will start in Game 4. However, after Ray Emery’s shaky performance in Tuesday’s loss, the odds are it will be Mason.
Emery had played very well in Game 1 and Game 2 but was fallible in Game 3, giving up a couple of goals he should have stopped. Trailing the series 2-1 currently, the Flyers will head back to Madison Square Garden for Game 5 – and they don’t want to do so trailing 3-1 in the series.
If Berube decides it’s time for Mason to play, he’s confident the goaltender will be ready.
“I think the practice time he’s had he’s looked fine,” Berube said. “He hasn’t really been with us as a team so much, we haven’t practiced a lot as a team. There’s been three goalies out there. We’ll see tomorrow. He’s going to be on the ice with us tomorrow, and we’ll go from there.”
As for the players outside the Flyers’ net, the mantra hasn’t changed.
“It could be Ray or Mase, I think we’re pretty confident with how both goalies have been doing for us,” Claude Giroux said. “We’re looking forward to Friday.”
There are the obvious risks, of course. Mason hasn't played in a while; he's not in any kind of a rhythm. As good as he feels, there's no guarantee he will be able to pick up where he left off.
That said, Mason has been watching the series from the press box and the Flyers’ bench, and he’s got an idea of how the Rangers have targeted the Flyers’ net. He knows to be on the lookout for back-door plays and deflections -- and he knows to prepare as best he can for them in the practice time he has remaining.
“I’m not in a rhythm right now because I haven’t got a start,” Mason said. “I’ll just make sure that tomorrow’s practice and the pregame skate on Friday I feel good. I don’t think I’ll have any problems.”