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Flyers goaltender Mason returns against Stars

by Adam Kimelman

STARS (4-1-0) at FLYERS (2-1-1)


PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Steve Mason will make his first start since Oct. 10 when the Flyers host the Dallas Stars on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CSN-PH).

Mason missed two games last week because of a personal family issue. In his place Michal Neuvirth had consecutive shutouts against the Florida Panthers and Chicago Blackhawks.

"I'm definitely a little anxious," Mason said. "Got the butterflies, but I think that's a good thing. Ready to get that first shot out of the way and move forward."

The last time Mason played he allowed four goals in the first 6:46 of a game against the Panthers. He said Friday the personal issue was on his mind and affected his play.

But Mason said now he's excited to be back playing, and his teammates are happy to see him back in uniform.

"It's important for us and for him as well," forward Jakub Voracek said. "He's a professional. He will do what he has to do to get ready for the game and I'm sure he'll be fine."

The Stars will go with Antti Niemi in goal Tuesday. Coach Lindy Ruff said that decision was made in part because of a prearranged schedule but also because of career numbers. In three regular-season games against the Flyers, Niemi is 2-1-0 with a 1.83 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. Kari Lehtonen is 1-10-3 with a 3.49 GAA and .891 save percentage in 14 games against the Flyers.

Niemi also has good history in Wells Fargo Center. The last time he started a game in the building he finished the night carrying the Stanley Cup after helping the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Flyers 4-3 in overtime in Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.

Those memories always will be with Niemi, but he said he's more focused on Tuesday and improving from his last game, when he allowed six goals on 28 shots in a 6-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 10.

"Key I think is a really solid start," Niemi said. "Get a few saves in, feel good about the game. … I think they [the Flyers] have lots of talent in the offense, especially the top line [Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Michael Raffl]. You can expect anything from them. You have to be ready for small, quick passes and quick plays."

The game also will feature two coaches from the tiny town of Warburg, Alberta, in Ruff and the Flyers' Dave Hakstol. According to Statistics Canada, Warburg had a population of 789 in a 2011 census.

"It's a coaching hotbed," Ruff said.

Hakstol said he was friendly with Ruff's younger brother Brent, and that Lindy was an inspiration to players his age.

"Lindy's a guy that since I was young everybody in our town looked up to," Hakstol said. "First it was as a player and now in the second half of his career establishing himself as one of the most successful veteran coaches in the League. He's always been a guy that people in our town has looked toward. Me as a kid, I remember when he was a first-round [NHL Draft] pick, when he played his first game in the League."

Ruff said he knew the Hakstol family and was happy for Dave Hakstol when he got the Flyers job. He said the two haven't spoken since the Stars arrived in town, but Ruff said he did talk to his father about Hakstol.

"My dad called me and said you have to say hi to his mom," Ruff said. "I said, 'How would you like me to do that?' I said the building is pretty big and I got work to do."

Here are the projected lineups:


Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Sharp

Vernon Fiddler - Jason Spezza - Valeri Nichushkin

Mattias Janmark - Cody Eakin - Ales Hemsky

Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Colton Sceviour

Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg

Johnny Oduya - Jason Demers

Jyrki Jokipakka - Jordie Benn

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Injured: Curtis McKenzie (lower body), Patrick Eaves (lower body), Travis Moen (upper body)

Scratched: Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak


Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek

Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Wayne Simmonds

Sam Gagner - Scott Laughton - Brayden Schenn

Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Ryan White

Nick Schultz - Mark Streit

Michael Del Zotto - Brandon Manning

Evgeny Medvedev - Radko Gudas

Steve Mason

Michal Neuvirth

Injured: None

Scratched: R.J. Umberger, Vincent Lecavalier, Luke Schenn

Status report: Ruff had considered using Nemeth and Oleksiak as a third pairing but opted to stick with Jokipakka and Jordie Benn. … Neuvirth is expected to start for the Flyers on Wednesday at the Boston Bruins.

Who's hot: Seguin has three goals and five assists during a four-game point streak. … Giroux has nine points in nine games against the Stars.


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