Flyers vs. Jets
7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet
The Flyers (20-22-7) will continue their homestand when they battle the playoff-hopeful Winnipeg Jets (26-15-8) at the Wells Fargo Center.
Here are five things you need to know for the game:
1. Money Mase
Forget his bout with the flu. Forget his lower-body injury. Steve Mason looked like his usual reliable self in relief of Ray Emery on Tuesday night.
Emery surrendered two goals on just four shots in just seven minutes against the Arizona Coyotes, prompting Flyers coach Craig Berube to quickly replace the veteran netminder with Mason in hopes of sparking the team. It worked, too. Mason gave up one goal on 23 shots before turning aside all three Arizona attempts in the shootout to lift the Flyers to a 4-3 victory.
Mason was actually aiming to return for Thursday’s game against Winnipeg. He had missed six straight games because of a knee injury and practiced just twice — on his own — during the All-Star break. Then he got sick. He was feeling well enough to dress against the Coyotes, but wasn’t expecting to see game action.
“It wasn’t exactly the plan, but it was probably easier to get thrown in not expecting anything,” Mason said after the game. “I just went out and played. With the long layoff, there’s obviously room for improvement. It was the guys in front of me who won the game with their effort.”
Mason, who has a .921 save percentage and 2.41 goals-against average in 30 games this season, practiced in full with the team Wednesday and said he felt “great.” Expect him to be back in the crease Thursday.
2. The other guys
Ryan White made his Flyers debut Tuesday, centering Wayne Simmonds and recent call-up Petr Straka.
White channeled his inner Zac Rinaldo in the first period, when he was whistled for an unnecessary interference call in the offensive zone. Remarkably, it was the Flyers’ only penalty of the game. White finished the game with two hits, a blocked shot and one shot on goal in 18:35 of ice time — a rather uneventful night.
Straka wound up playing just 10 minutes and eight seconds in his NHL debut. He didn’t make much of an impact on the scoresheet — one hit and a blocked shot — but showed flashes of his speed early on. He could get another look if Michael Raffl (flu) is unable to go.
Simmonds played the role of hero in the Flyers’ win. He tallied his 10th power-play goal of the season — snapping an eight-game goalless drought — and later scored the game-winner in the shootout. Yes, the shootout. If you’re paying attention closely at home, that’s twice already in 2015 that Simmonds has helped the Flyers to a win in the gimmick.
R.J. Umberger, who has been noticeably better over the past month and a half, also had a strong game. He fired a team-high five shots on goal and collected his ninth goal of the year. His next goal will give the Flyers seven skaters with at least 10 tallies this season.
Braydon Coburn (foot) and Scott Laughton (upper-body) remain sidelined for the Flyers.
Nicklas Grossmann, however, returned to practice and skated with his usual partner, Mark Streit, on Wednesday. The shot-blocking defenseman, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, isn’t quite ready to play in a game, but could return as soon as Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
For the Jets, defensemen Grant Clitsome (upper-body) and Mark Stuart (lower-body) are on injured reserve and will not suit up.
4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Claude Giroux (two goals, two assists), Jakub Voracek (five assists), Michael Del Zotto (two goals, three assists) and Streit (two goals, two assists) are all riding four-game point streaks. Take your pick.
Jets: Dustin Byfuglien, also known as “Big Buff,” was an absolute force the last time these two teams met. He bruised and battered several Flyers forwards, most notably Brayden Schenn, Raffl and Giroux. The All-Star defenseman, sometimes winger, is built like a linebacker (6-5, 265), but skates well for his size and is almost unstoppable in both zones when he’s on his game. He enters Thursday with 12 goals and 32 points in 49 games this season.
5. This and that
• The Flyers are 5-1-1 in their last seven games against Winnipeg.
• The Jets are 6-2-2 on the road against the Eastern Conference.
• During their current 3-1-0 stretch, the Flyers have potted at least one power-play goal in each contest and are 5 for 14 on the man advantage overall.
• Winnipeg has 271 infractions for 689 penalty minutes this season, the most in the NHL.
• Steve Mason is 3-0-1 with a 0.91 goals-against average, .968 save percentage and one shutout in five career games — four starts — against the Winnipeg franchise.