Philadelphia Flyers

Teammates pick up Mason to claim 'special' win

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Teammates pick up Mason to claim 'special' win

It’s pretty safe to say that on more than one occasion in his young NHL career, Steve Mason was on the short end of the kind of game that unfolded Thursday night.

When he played for Columbus.

A game in which he had a comfortable third-period lead and then ended up losing.

Things are different as a Flyer.

Playing against his former team for the first time since being traded to the Flyers last April, Mason saw the Flyers roar back from a 3-0 deficit with five third-period goals and win, 5-4 (see story).

“Yeah, it was not exactly how I drew it up on the board, but you know sometimes your team comes through for you and that feels great,” said Mason, who had 25 saves and got bailed out big time by teammates.

“With the guys on our team, it’s possible,” he said of the Flyers' incredible third-period comeback.

“You know we didn’t have a great second period," Mason added. "But you know they came out and had one hell of a third period. Made this night pretty special.

“It’s a difficult game for a goaltender to be a part of something like that, you know with the goals going in, but there’s nights like these that come along every so often where your team bails you out and … big win.”

In so many ways. First, he had the jitters of playing his former team. That’s out of the way. Second, you had the Flyers going over .500 for the first time this season.

And biggest of all, the Flyers are sitting in a playoff spot for the first time at third place in the Metropolitan Division.

It’s something Craig Berube’s club can build upon.

“Absolutely,” Mason said. “You know it puts you possibly back in the playoffs right now. Divisional point who we play quite a few times throughout the season. One right there on Saturday for another big game [in Columbus].

“You know this is a four-point night technically, and the guys worked extremely hard in that third period that we got the two points and from the defensemen all the way to the forwards they earned the two points.”

Thing is, Mason wasn’t particularly sharp in goal, either. This is the fourth time in his last six starts he’s given up four goals.

Blake Comeau’s weak goal in the third period made it a 4-2 Blue Jackets lead and took the air right out of the Flyers’ sails for a few short minutes.

And then … the Flyers scored three times in the final five minutes to win the game on goals from Erik Gustafsson and two from Claude Giroux.

“Let’s see, we came out and got two big goals and then they came out with the fourth one [Comeau],” Mason said. “The boys just kept going at them and we were able to come away with a big victory.

“To score that many goals in one period is difficult to do no matter who you’re playing against, but the guys made sure that this is a special night.”

It’s only fair his teammates bail him out once in a while given how many times Mason has done it for them this season.

And especially to win this game for Mason, which meant so much because it was his former club and first meeting against them.

“It feels unbelievable,” Mason said. “You know, went around the room and thanked everybody, G [Giroux] said you don’t have to be the one winning us games.

“So it was nice to be in this position where against my old team they came through and got me the two points, and this is from a team’s standpoint a real big victory.”

In so many ways.

NHL Notes: Rangers ink Mika Zibanejad to 5-year extension

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USA Today Images

NHL Notes: Rangers ink Mika Zibanejad to 5-year extension

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers have signed center Mika Zibanejad to a $26.75 million, five-year deal.

Zibanejad will count $5.35 million against the salary cap through 2021-22 as the Rangers count on him to take on a bigger role following the trade of Derek Stepan. General manager Jeff Gorton announced the contract Tuesday morning, before the team and Zibanejad were set to go to arbitration.

The 24-year-old Swede had 14 goals and 23 assists for 37 points in 56 games last season, his first with New York. The Rangers acquired Zibanejad from the Ottawa Senators for Derick Brassard a year ago.

Zibanejad has 188 points in 337 NHL games with the Senators and Rangers since Ottawa drafted him sixth overall in 2011 (see full story).

Olympics: Team Canada names Burke GM for 2018 Games
Sean Burke will be the general manager and Willie Desjardins the head coach for Canada at the first Olympics without NHL players since 1994.

Hockey Canada named its management and coaching staffs for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics on Tuesday. St. Louis Blues assistant general manager Martin Brodeur will work under Burke on the management side, while Desjardins will be assisted by Dave King, Scott Walker and Craig Woodcroft.

Canada has been grooming Burke for this responsibility for some time as he served as assistant GM for the 2017 world championships, GM for the 2016 Spengler Cup and Deutschland Cup and director of player development for the 2016 worlds. Desjardins coached Canada's 2010 world junior team and assisted in 2009.

USA Hockey has not yet named its GM or coach (see full story).

Sabres: Goalie Lehner re-signed to 1-year deal
BUFFALO, N.Y.  -- The Buffalo Sabres have re-signed goaltender Robin Lehner to a $4 million, one-year contract.

The team announced the deal Tuesday. Lehner was a restricted free agent.

The 26-year-old Swede showed he could stay healthy last season, setting career highs with 59 games played, 23 wins and two shutouts. He ranked third in the NHL with 1,758 saves and finished with a .920 save percentage and 2.68 goals-against average.

Bothered by injuries and concussion problems, Lehner had never before played more than 36 games in his NHL career. The Sabres took a chance on Lehner when they traded a first-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for him at the 2015 draft.

Lehner will again be a restricted free agent next summer when this contract expires.

Devils: 3 restricted free agents re-signed
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have re-signed restricted free agent defenseman Mirco Mueller, forward Joseph Blandisi and goaltender Scott Wedgewood.

Mueller got a two-year deal worth an average of $850,000 a season, Blandisi a two-year, two-way deal worth an average of $680,000 in the NHL, and Wedgewood a one-year, two-way deal worth $650,000 in the NHL. General manager Ray Shero announced the contracts Tuesday.

Re-signing Mueller for two years was the most significant move after New Jersey acquired the 22-year-old from San Jose before the Vegas expansion draft. The Swiss defender has just six points in 54 NHL games with the Sharks, but still is considered a good prospect after being a first-round pick in 2013.

Mueller will make $775,000 next season and $925,000 in 2018-19.

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.