Flyers-Jets: 5 things you need to know

flyers-jets-matchup.jpg

Flyers-Jets: 5 things you need to know

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.

3. Injuries
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.

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

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John Boruk/CSNPhilly.com

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

The opportunity to watch a Briere play again in Philadelphia will be an exciting reality for hockey fans this season.

No, Danny Briere isn’t coming out of retirement as the former Flyers forward has committed to handling the day-to-day operations of the organization’s newest ECHL team.  

However, Briere will be keeping close tabs on his younger son, Carson, who’s currently on the Philadelphia Rebels' 30-man roster and is setting his sights on making the team’s final cuts during training camp.

“It’s great,” Briere said Monday. “Growing up here for most of my life, I love Philly. It’s fun getting to play in the same city that [my dad] did. Whenever I think of him playing, I always think of that playoff run [in 2010] for the Flyers.”

After spending the past two seasons at IceWorks in Aston, Pennsylvania, the NAHL’s (North American Hockey League) Rebels are moving their operation to the Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Arena, where they made the formal announcement on Monday. It will be the organization’s third different home rink in the past four seasons after relocating from the Rio Grande Valley in 2015.

“It was a no-brainer,” team owner Marko Dundovich said. “When the opportunity presented itself, it was very easy. I think it will give the boys a better opportunity to play, get them seen and I think it’s going to continue to grow here, and our business and organization will do much better here.”

The Rebels and junior hockey simply didn’t attract a broad appeal in the Philadelphia suburbs like ownership had hoped, and as a result, attendance lagged as the team typically averaged around 125 fans a game.

“It was the first time we tried Junior A hockey here,” Dundovich said. “If we had a 300-, 400- or 500-person fan base, we would have been OK in Aston, but I think it was tough to sell a junior hockey ticket in Aston. It’s a difficult sell in a small town.”   

Conversely, hockey fans in Philadelphia haven’t had much of an alternative to the Flyers since the Phantoms left the city in 2009 for Glens Falls, New York. Rebels forward Aaron Maguyon, who stays with former Flyers captain Keith Primeau throughout the season, feels the team cannot only fill the 2,500-seat ice rink, but the players will greatly benefit from the college vibe.  

“I think it prepares us for the future and playing college hockey, for sure, so in that way, it’s like a sneak peek for what’s to come," Maguyon said. "I think it helps pull guys closer together. We have restaurants we can go to or just activities we can do in the city."

According to the league website, the NAHL set a new single-season NCAA record with 280-plus commitments, and the Rebels had 12 commit to Divison I programs. Head coach Joe Coombs has built a tier-II junior hockey powerhouse over the past two years. Last season, the Rebels finished with the NAHL’s best regular-season record, advancing to the championship game of the Robertson Cup in Duluth, Minnesota, where they came up short in a 2-0 loss to the Lone Star Brahmas. 

“This is business,” Coombs said. “Let’s bring the game to the people. Over the last two years, we struggled with our attendance. I didn’t even know this place was here — UPenn hockey rink — and we couldn’t think of a better venue right here in University City to try and market our brand of hockey and bring our game to the people.”  

And who knows? You might just see a few former Flyers in the seats, as well.  

NHL Notes: Penguins sign defenseman Brian Dumoulin to 6-year contract

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USA Today Images

NHL Notes: Penguins sign defenseman Brian Dumoulin to 6-year contract

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin has turned his steady play for the Stanley Cup champions into a new contract.

Dumoulin and the team agreed to a six-year deal on Monday that will run through the 2022-23 season and will pay him an average of $4.1 million per year.

The 25-year-old Dumoulin had three goals and 11 assists during Pittsburgh's run to the Cup this spring and hasn't missed a playoff game during the team's sprint to back-to-back titles.

Dumoulin averaged a team-high 21:59 of ice time this postseason, and his plus-9 rating was best among Penguins defensemen. Dumoulin was forced to take on a larger roll this spring after injuries forced Kris Letang to miss the playoffs.

Predators: Watson signs 3-year, $3.3 million deal
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Nashville Predators have signed forward Austin Watson to a three-year $3.3 million deal keeping him under contract through 2019-20.

The Predators announced the deal Monday.

Watson will earn $1 million this season, $1.1 million in 2018-19 and $1.2 million in the third year.

The 25-year-old forward is coming off his best season yet with Nashville. The 6-foot-4, 204-pound Watson had a career high with five goals and seven assists in 77 games this past season. Watson scored four goals and had nine points in 22 playoff games helping Nashville reach the Stanley Cup Final.

The 18th pick overall in the 2010 draft, Watson had three goals and 10 points in 57 games during the 2015-16 season.

Now, center Ryan Johansen is Nashville's lone restricted free agent awaiting a new deal.

Sabres: Okposo says he’s healthy after concussion
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Sabres winger Kyle Okposo said he is fully healthy after a concussion led to sleeping trouble, significant weight loss and a trip to intensive care last March.

Okposo missed the final few weeks of Buffalo's season with a previously undisclosed illness. In a letter posted on the team's website Monday, Okposo said a routine hit in practice caused his mood to change and other problems that required hospitalization.

The 29-year-old said he lost his appetite, had a negative reaction to sleep medications and that at one point he weighed less than 200 pounds. He spent time in the Neuro Surgical ICU at Buffalo General Hospital to be stabilized. Okposo's playing weight is listed at 218 pounds.

Okposo played in a 4-on-4 summer league game in Minnesota with other NHL players last week and reported feeling great. New general manager Jason Botterill said Okposo was on track to be ready for training camp.

"I've worked with a lot of different people -- concussion experts and people who have dealt with concussions themselves -- and I feel confident in the fact that I can play hockey again," Okposo said in the letter. "In fact, I know I can play again. I know I can play and not worry about hitting my head, which is a major hurdle for someone who's dealt with this. If I didn't feel 100 percent right now, that probably wouldn't be the case."

Okposo's last NHL game was March 27 against Florida. He had 19 goals and 26 assists for 45 points in 65 games during his first season with Buffalo. He signed a $42 million, seven-year contract with the Sabres last summer.

NHL: Gamble to get back Hall of Fame ring
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A scuba-diving treasure hunter who found an American Hockey League Hall of Fame ring in one of New York's Finger Lakes is returning it to its owner.

Gary Gavurnik, of Auburn, New York, plans to return the prized ring to former AHL star Dick Gamble on Monday. Gavurnik found it with a metal detector in Canandaigua Lake over the Fourth of July weekend.

The 88-year-old Canadian-born Gamble starred for the AHL's Rochester Americans and retired early in the 1969-70 season. He was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2007.

Instead of wearing the ring, though, he gave it to his son, Craig, who wore it every day for seven years before losing it in the lake. He never told his dad and ordered a replacement.