Happy with rotation, Mason eager for next start


Happy with rotation, Mason eager for next start

Ray Emery played a game. Then Steve Mason did. Then Emery played in another.

It’s finally Mason’s turn again tonight against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center. As far as he’s concerned, it’s about time.

Mason -- like Emery -- is content with the Flyers’ strict one-on, one-off preseason rotation, but definitely wants to spend more time in net before the team’s Oct. 2 opener.

“I think the same goes for anybody,” Mason said. “Whether it’s goalie, defense or forwards, you want to play as much as you can to make sure that, come puck drop on opening night, everything feels good.”

So far, Mason says, everything does feel good. While his in-game performances haven’t been perfect, Mason remains encouraged by how things have gone for him so far this September.

“Right now in practice, I feel really, really strong,” he said. “It’s just a matter of carrying that into the games. I’ve only played one and a half games right now, so I’ll utilize my next start and make sure that if I can get into another one as well, that I’ll make the most of it.”

The Flyers’ exhibition games have played out exactly as expected, with the team’s two netminders splitting time as close to 50-50 as is possible. Emery had the last start, a 2-1 loss Tuesday to the Devils at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers’ goalie tandem, of course, has received plenty of attention through training camp. The team’s goalie strategy this season is arguably the NHL’s most radical (and certainly its least expensive), especially considering what their situation in net looked like this time last year.

“People are making such a big deal out of it,” Mason said. “Razor (Emery) and I are both competitive guys, we both want to play, and only one can play at a time. Regardless of who’s in the net, we want to be supportive of one another and for the team.

"If Razor wins his next start, it’s great, it’s good for our team. If I win my next, it’s great. We’re not going to put any negative spin on it. It’s nice having two guys that are hungry to play.”

What has been a challenge for Mason, though, is getting accustomed to the Flyers’ current defense. When he came to the team last spring, its blue line was in bad shape. The Flyers went through 13 D-men in just 48 games in 2013, with Mason never having had a chance to play behind some key members of the defense while learning how to play with some who likely won't suit up in orange and black at all this season.

There's been a definite learning curve for him this preseason.

“You find that in the first couple games of preseason that you’re playing with guys that you’ve never played with before,” he said. “And trying to figure that out -- it’s such a short period of time. … Because when I did get here last year, key guys were out with injuries. So now that they’re all back and healthy, we really have to make sure that we’re taking advantage of this time.”

The Flyers enter this season with no clear-cut No. 1 goalie, the first time in years the position has been free for the taking. For Mason, and for Emery too, that helps feed the already-present competition. But plenty of analysts, still, lack faith in the Flyers' setup.

And like the team's current goalie rotation, that, too, is OK with Mason.

“Everybody’s entitled to their opinion,” he said. “I’m not sure where they’re having Razor and myself ranked, but if it’s a low position, it would be a great feeling when you get to prove them wrong.”

Travis Konecny getting rookie introduction to physicality of NHL game

Travis Konecny getting rookie introduction to physicality of NHL game

VOORHEES, N.J. – There are some things in the NHL that are expected to happen on the ice with rookie players.

They will be challenged. They will be tested. And they will be hit – clean or otherwise.

Four games into Travis Konecny’s career, teams are taking target practice on the Flyers’ smallest player. The London, Ont. forward is listed at 5-foot-10 but 5-9 or less is closer to the truth.

On Thursday night, Josh Manson’s elbow made contact with the back of Konecny’s head during the opening minutes of a 3-2 Flyers loss to Anaheim. Manson served a minor for elbowing.

Konency admitted on Friday afternoon that he placed himself in a bad situation by “ducking” to avoid Mason’s check on the boards.

“That was my fault,” Konecny said. “I tried to duck under the hit and make room for myself. He came through and put a check on me and I got underneath him.”

Konecny doesn’t feel teams are targeting him. At the same time, he doesn’t deny he is taking some hard licks out there. He has four assists, tied for the rookie lead in the NHL.

“It’s part of the game,” he said. “Part of being a young guy, too. Being in the league, I am trying to make space for myself and hit guys.

“Obviously, some guys who have been in the league 10 years, don’t like guys doing that. So I expect it. Doesn’t bother me.”

His linemate, Jakub Voracek, said all of this has to be expected.

“I don’t think he is the only one in the league who is getting this kind of treatment,” Voracek said. “He is a good player. He is small and shifty. They try to get under his skin. ... That’s the way it always works.

“You are a new guy, a young guy, especially if you have a good start like he did. You’re gonna get that treatment. He’s a big fellow and he can handle it. ... Sometimes you can be small, but if you can handle things, better to handle it when you are 5-11 than 6-4 and being a p---y.”

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol doesn’t feel Konecny is being targeted.

“I haven’t seen anything out of bounds,” he said.

With Radko Gudas serving a six-game suspension for a head shot during preseason, the Flyers don’t have a big, punishing player that opponents fear on the ice to balance things out on the scoresheet.

Would Gudas’ presence alleviate the questionable hits on Konecny?

“No, I haven’t seen any difference there,” Hakstol replied. “A night like last night, I mentioned after the game, that’s a big, heavy team we’re playing … you certainly miss a big, heavy body like Gudy on the back end that just naturally matches that physicality.”

Gap coverage
The Flyers didn’t show any lineup changes during Friday’s practice in preparation for Saturday’s game against Carolina.

One element they worked on and saw video was gap coverage between their forwards and defense. It burned them against the Ducks and even Chicago.

“That’s a fair assessment,” Hakstol said. “I don’t think we were very good in that area [against Anaheim] and had been extremely good in that area during the first, couple games of the year. It’s an area we have to do a little better job at.”

The challenge there is that Carolina has some speed and the Canes will attempt to exploit holes in the Flyers’ gap coverage, especially off transition.

Dale Weise faces possible suspension for hit on Ducks' Holzer

Dale Weise faces possible suspension for hit on Ducks' Holzer

VOORHEES, N.J. — The long arm of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety will likely reach down once more to serve the Flyers a suspension.

Dale Weise is facing a suspension on Friday for a high shoulder to the head of Ducks defenseman Korbinian Holzer just prior to a Flyers power play in the second period of Thursday's 3-2 loss.

The phone hearing was expected Friday afternoon.

Weise didn’t get a penalty on the play and Holzer remained in the game, even assisting on Ryan Garbutt’s game-winning goal midway into the third period.

A tight-lipped Weise had a terse "no comment" on the play. Coach Dave Hakstol didn’t take sides, either.

“I don’t have a comment on it and I’m not going to comment this year on them,” Hakstol said. “I’m not surprised. 

“I didn’t expect there'd be something last night, put it that way. I looked at it this morning and now we’ll wait for the process to go ahead.”

On the other hand, Josh Manson’s elbow to the back of the head of rookie Travis Konecny in the opening minutes of the game did not draw a suspension. Manson served a minor for elbowing.

“I have not compared the two and won’t compare the two,” Hakstol said. “I will wait for the process to play out and go from there. That’s the choice I have to make as a coach.”

Konecny said he put himself in a bad situation on the Manson hit.

“That was my fault,” he said. “I tried to duck under the hit and make room for myself. He came through and put a check on me and I got underneath him.”

Any difference between that and the Weise hit?

“From my point of view, it looked like he hit his body,” Konecny said. “There was no intent to hit him in the head. I could say the same thing about the hit on me. He didn’t intend to hit me in the head. In my opinion, they are both good hits.”

Wayne Simmonds was upset that one hit was being investigated while the other wasn’t.

“It’s bull,” he said. “There is no difference. The guy has his head down. [Weise] hits him square through the body. I honestly think it’s a clean check. Obviously, whatever happens happens, but we can’t take those hits out of the game. 

“The guy who is getting hit has to be aware, keep his head up. But at the same time, I don’t think Weiser was going for head contact at all. He drove 100 percent through the body and just so happened their guy had his head down carrying the puck. You don’t want him to check? What do you want him to do?”

Through four games, the 5-foot-9 Konecny (he’s listed taller) is being targeted by teams. The fact that he has four assists — tied for first among rookies — has served notice around the NHL that he is a player to watch on the ice.

From the Flyers' perspective, you can see why they miss defenseman Radko Gudas. They have no big body bruiser out there to make other clubs think twice.

Gudas has served four games of a six-game suspension handed down at the end of preseason for a hit on Bruins rookie Austin Czarnik.