MASON TO START; BRIERE CLOSER; FOSTER A WINNER
UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Steve Mason feels like he has something to prove – and no better way to do that than in what is a must-win game for the Flyers.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette decided to end the 22-game starting streak of Ilya Bryzgalov Tuesday and will go with Mason in net against the Islanders, one of the teams the Flyers are trying to catch for a playoff spot.
“Mason was brought here to be part of a goaltending duo,” Laviolette said. “We didn’t want to change things up right away being on a [winning] streak and not getting him a practice. We wanted to make sure he was ready. Getting the work in last game and getting a good practice in is a good opportunity.
“There’s no question that Bryz has had a lot of work. Just with him coming in, getting that 20 minutes of work and having a practice – this is a better situation to come in. There’s no denying that Bryz has had a heavy workload here but after losing that last game… it’s a better situation for [Mason].”
And Mason wants to show that he can still be a viable goaltender in the NHL and will have to do it under a harsh spotlight tonight.
The Islanders are a talented offensive team who rank in the top 10 in the league in shots per game (30.6) and in power play percentage (21.2). So it’s safe to assume Mason will be tested.
He’s just the second right-hand-catching goalie to play for the Flyers in franchise history, joining Stephane Beauregard, however defenseman Kimmo Timonen said that doesn’t change anything when it comes to playing the puck and working breakouts.
So, the only question is, does the decision in such a crucial game come as a surprise?
“Not really,” said Simon Gagne. “Bryz has played so many games. Especially for a goalie – at some point you’re going to get tired. It’s good to get him a break. It’s a chance to have a goalie who has been a No. 1 in the NHL before who is looking for a chance to prove himself again. A lot of good things can happen from that. Maybe the break is exactly what Bryz needs so he can come back and play the rest of the games the rest of the season.
“It could be a win-win situation for us.”
With a regulation win, the Flyers will again close to within three points of a playoff spot. A regulation loss would leave the Flyers in a precarious position – five points out with nine games to play.
So, the pressure will definitely be there on the team, but especially on Mason.
“We all know what happened last night with[the New York Rangers losing],” Gagne said. “So there is a lot of pressure. Sometimes you see guys playing their best hockey when there’s pressure like that. I think [Mason] is very excited to play this soon and it’s going to be a good challenge for him.”
Danny Briere skated for a second straight day with the team, and reported afterward that he felt good again and that he was inching closer to a return to the lineup.
Briere said he wasn’t sure when he would take contact drills in practice, but said it’ll be either tomorrow or Friday – depending on the decision of the training staff.
Briere admitted that he wanted to get back this week because he always likes playing in Buffalo and Montreal – two cities the Flyers are headed too this weekend, but he did add one other caveat.
“I always like playing against Ottawa,” he said. “I usually do well against them. Especially in Philadelphia.”
Briere does have 37 points in 43 career games against the Senators, fifth-most of any opponent Briere has played.
But since joining the Flyers, Briere has averaged a point per game against the Sens (8-9-17) in 17 games.
Needless to say, Briere’s return appears to be imminent, whether it’s Thursday or Saturday.
With Louisville defeating Michigan in the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship game last night, the Final Standings for the Flyers office pool are in – and the winner:
Foster had Lousiville to win it all, although he had Miami as the opponent in the championship game.
Actually, according to Brayden Schenn, who did all the math to figure out who would win the pool, Foster had the top spot locked up before the championship game even tipped off.
That’s because nobody picked Michigan, not even the second-place finisher Mike Knuble, who graduated from Big Blue.
“Yeah, it was a tough loss,” said Knuble. “But it was a great game.”
Schenn said the most common picks for a national champion were Louisville, Kansas, Ohio State and Gonzaga. Foster just got out ahead of everyone early and held on.
Foster picked several early upsets that helped his cause, such as Harvard and La Salle.
“I didn’t really have a great pool,” Foster said. “I had an average pool. But I think everyone else had a bad pool, so my average pool won it. I’m not complaining though… I’ll take it.”
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