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At the Rink: Canucks at Flyers

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- Steve Mason will be back in goal for the Philadelphia Flyers against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; SN360, CSN-PH).

Mason hasn't played since being pulled 1:14 into the second period against the New York Islanders on Dec. 8 after allowing three goals on 10 shots in a 4-3 Flyers shootout loss. Michal Neuvirth started the past three games for Philadelphia (13-12-6).

After leading the League with a .944 save percentage at 5-on-5 and establishing NHL career highs with a 2.25 goals-against average and .928 save percentage, Mason is 5-8-4 with a 2.93 GAA and .905 save percentage in 18 games this season. In nine games at Wells Fargo Center he's 1-4-3 with a 3.04 GAA and .907 save percentage.

Neuvirth has played well enough to earn his extra playing time. Neuvirth leads the League with a .937 save percentage and is fifth with a 2.06 GAA.

"It's been a tough start to the year," Mason said after an optional morning skate Thursday. "Not the way I drew it up. But sometimes you just take it as it is and focus on the future because that's what you can control. Can't control what's already happened."

Mason said the key for him in getting back into the lineup is to keep things simple.

"The biggest thing is trying not to overthink things," he said. "You can't go out there and try and be perfect. You just try to go out there and keep things simple. Don't want to overthink things and over-analyze things, worry about who's on the ice at a certain time. The biggest focus is stopping the puck and taking it shot by shot."

The Canucks (11-13-8) will switch goalies from their previous game, with Jacob Markstrom starting in place of Ryan Miller. Markstrom stopped all five shots he faced in the third period in relief of Miller in the Canucks' 6-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. It will be Markstrom's first start since Dec. 5 against the Boston Bruins.

He said it was good he saw some action Tuesday and said after taking part in an optional morning skate that he's excited to be back in net.

"The best thing about this League is you get a chance to go right back at it," he said. "We had a good practice [Wednesday]. ... Got a chance to redeem ourselves today and hopefully get a good game today."

The Canucks' loss to the Wild was their second straight to start their six-game road trip; they lost 4-0 to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday. It also was their seventh loss in their past nine games (2-5-2). During that span they've been outscored 30-14, been held to two goals or fewer in seven games and one goal or fewer four times.

Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said there's some anger among the players, but the key is to us that to their advantage.

"That's the tough part," he said. "A lot of guys are squeezing the sticks. It's not a good feeling. I've been through that throughout my career. It affects other parts of your game. It's not only when you get a scoring chance that you feel a little bit of hesitance. It's passing, making the little plays. The only way out is hard work and you come into practice every day and you keep doing the right things in games instead of maybe cheating to get your way out of it. It's about doing the little things. If you keep doing that over and over it's going to turn around for you; that's been our message."

Here are the projected lineups:


Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen

Sven Baertschi - Bo Horvat - Alexandre Burrows

Chris Higgins - Jared McCann - Radim Vrbata

Derek Dorsett - Adam Cracknell - Brandon Prust

Alexander Edler - Christopher Tanev

Yannick Weber - Ben Hutton

Danny Biega - Matt Bartkowski

Jacob Markstrom

Ryan Miller

Injured: Luca Sbisa (hand), Brandon Sutter (sports hernia), Dan Hamhuis (facial fracture)

Scratched: Ronalds Kenins, Andrey Pedan


Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Brayden Schenn

Jakub Voracek - Sean Couturier - Wayne Simmonds

Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Ryan White

Matt Read - Scott Laughton - R.J. Umberger

Michael Del Zotto - Radko Gudas

Nick Schultz - Evgeny Medvedev

Brandon Manning - Shayne Gostisbehere

Steve Mason

Michal Neuvirth

Injured: Sam Gagner (upper body), Luke Schenn (lower body), Mark Streit (groin)

Scratched: Vincent Lecavalier

Status report: The Canucks had seven skaters and two goalies on the ice for their optional morning skate. ... The Flyers had 12 skaters and two goalies out for their optional skate. ... Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said Gagner is just about healthy. "I think he's ready to go," Hakstol said. "I think it's a matter of when's the right time for our team and the right opportunity for him to come back in. It's a tough situation for him. He's a good player and his opportunity will come."

Who's hot: Daniel Sedin has nine goals and nine assists in his past 15 games. ... Voracek has one goal and three assists in his past two games after he had two points in his previous six.


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