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Flyers counting on Mason's puck-handling skills

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Flyers have been consistent in saying they have confidence no matter which goalie is in net, Steve Mason or Ray Emery.

But with Mason making his first start of the Eastern Conference First Round series against the New York Rangers on Friday in Game 4 (7 p.m. ET; RDS, TSN, CNBC, MSG, CSN-PH), there is one skill that sets him apart from Emery, and that's Mason's ability to handle the puck.

"When you have a guy that can make the right decisions behind the net, it's very important," forward Vincent Lecavalier said. "It helps our defensemen out for sure. Just making that first quick play or them communicating with the defense. It's important to get out of the zone. I think it's going to be a great help for us."

The Flyers have seen the Rangers' offensive aggression, including the way their defensemen can get into the play in the offensive zone. But with Mason's ability to start the breakout himself, he could be a deterrent.

"They have a hard forecheck, they got on our [defense] pretty quick," forward Scott Hartnell said. "Especially if they rim the puck [into the Philadelphia zone]. … Hopefully [Mason] can play it to our [defensemen] a little easier."

Coach Craig Berube agreed, saying Mason's puck-moving could either slow the Rangers attack or catch them on their heels.

"They're a hard-forechecking team," he said. "They come fast, they're a good-skating team. If he can get pucks there and get them up quick … he's good at putting them on the glass and getting them around the walls.

"You can create some odd-man rushes."

Mason's ability to move the puck can be a spark for a power play that went 0-for-5 in Game 3.

"He's pretty good with the puck," captain Claude Giroux said. "He can start our power play. He can rim it, he can reverse it. He can do all those kind of things. When you have a goalie that can do that, it definitely helps the breakout."

The Flyers trail the best-of-7 series 2-1, so they're looking for any spark that can help them even the series.

"[Mason] has logged the majority of the time, has played great in almost every appearance," Hartnell said. "We're excited for him to get back. He was really down on himself that he couldn't start the series. Now he's back and he's feeling great. … You need a goalie to make big saves. Not that [Emery] didn't do it, but we're looking forward to playing in front of Mason."

The only Flyers not on the ice for the morning skate were defenseman Kimmo Timonen and center Sean Couturier, but they will be in the Game 4 lineup.

Here are the projected lineups:


Rick Nash - Derek Stepan - Martin St. Louis

Benoit Pouliot - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Daniel Carcillo

Brian Boyle - Dominic Moore - Derek Dorsett

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Anton Stralman

John Moore - Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Jesper Fast, Justin Falk, Raphael Diaz, Ryan Haggerty, J.T. Miller

Injured: Chris Kreider (hand)


Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek

Brayden Schenn - Vincent Lecavalier - Wayne Simmonds

Jason Akeson - Sean Couturier - Matt Read

Zac Rinaldo - Michael Raffl - Adam Hall

Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn

Mark Streit - Nicklas Grossmann

Andrew MacDonald - Luke Schenn

Steve Mason

Ray Emery

Scratched: Calvin Heeter, Hal Gill, Erik Gustafsson, Tye McGinn, Jay Rosehill

Injured: Steve Downie (upper body)


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