VOORHEES, N.J. -- Assuming he gets the start in net as he’s expected to, Steve Mason will play his most important game in five years Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
Mason hasn’t made a playoff appearance since 2008-09 as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, and he hasn’t so much as been in the playoff hunt since then either.
“It’s extremely exciting being a part of a playoff push,” Mason said. "It’s been a while for myself, and with the Flyers missing the playoffs last season, I think everybody was fed up with having a long summer. That’s not what hockey players enjoy. It’s the meaningful games that we’re having right now that make hockey fun.
“Right now, we’ve put ourselves in a good spot, but we can’t be taking games off like we did [Monday] night. You have to keep pushing forward.”
That’s exactly what the Mason and the Flyers will attempt to do Wednesday night. After their loss to the Los Angeles Kings Monday, and the Rangers’ overtime victory over the Phoenix Coyotes, the Flyers fell into third place into the Metropolitan Division. The Rangers lead them by a point (see story).
There’s a lot at stake tonight: The season series. Playoff positioning. A critical two points (see story).
“It’s huge,” Mason said. “Just because, you look at us losing … and the Rangers winning, they leapfrogged us. Every point is huge. If we were able to get into overtime, that one point would have been the difference between us being ahead of them.
“[Tonight] if we can pull off a victory, it’s going to be huge in the standings, just like every other game for the remainder of the season.”
The Rangers are expected to start Henrik Lundqvist in net opposite Mason, which just drives the Flyers’ goaltender to play that much harder. Mason looked very good against the Rangers at the Wells Fargo Center earlier this season.
“You realize that you just have to be that much better, because you know he’s going to bring his best stuff every single night,” Mason said.
Tonight’s game marks the Flyers’ first chance to face off against Martin St. Louis as a Ranger.
It’s going to be strange for Vinny Lecavalier, St. Louis’ longtime teammate with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who said he was “shocked” at the trade deadline to learn of St. Louis’ being traded to the Rangers.
“It’ll be weird for sure,” Lecavalier said. “I watched a few games of theirs, but just to play against him -- it was weird playing against him this year when he was with Tampa, but to be in a different jersey, it’s going to be a little awkward, that’s for sure.”
Like the Kings and St. Louis Blues, the Rangers are a strong shot-blocking team. That’s sure to pose an extra challenge Wednesday, just as it did in the Flyers' loss Monday.
“We need to do a better job to get it through,” Claude Giroux said. “Sometimes it doesn’t have to be hard, it has to be on net and there will be rebounds around. We’ve got a lot of good guys that can get those rebounds in front of the net. At the end of the day it’s just about making sure it hits the net.”