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Flyers' Mason back at practice, focusing on hockey

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Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Steve Mason returned to practice Friday after missing the past two games because of a personal family issue. Mason did not reveal what the issue was.

"Definitely nice to be back among the team setting and focusing on hockey again," Mason said in video posted on the Flyers website.

The Flyers had announced during their morning skate Monday that Mason was dealing with a personal issue. In his place Michal Neuvirth made 31 saves in a 1-0 defeat of the Florida Panthers. Jason LaBarbera was recalled from Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League to serve as the backup.

Mason took part in the morning skate Wednesday but did not play. Neuvirth started and made 30 saves in the Flyers' 3-0 win. He has a personal shutout streak of 132:05, dating to the third period of the Flyers' 7-1 loss to the Florida Panthers on Oct. 10.

Taking part in the morning skate Wednesday was about attempting to return to normalcy for Mason.

"It's definitely a mental hurdle that needed to be overcome," he said. "Just takes time. That's why I took the time to come out to the morning skate. First just to be around the guys and also to start working back at hockey and doing the things you love to do."

Flyers teammates were happy to see their goaltender back on the ice.

"It's good to see him around the guys," forward R.J. Umberger, also a teammate of Mason's with the Columbus Blue Jackets, told the Courier-Post. "The things that's going on with him in his personal life, to be around the group is a way that you can relieve that. When you're at the rink you can just be a kid and play hockey and people aren't going to know the full details of what's going on with him. But we have a group of guys here, a team that's supporting him. He's one of our brothers."

Mason hasn't played since being removed after allowing four goals in the first 6:46 against the Panthers on Oct. 10. He said the personal issue was on his mind during that game.

"I didn't handle Saturday very well, didn't play well," Mason said, according to the Courier-Post. "I don't want to get into details on it but I definitely didn't handle myself well enough to play well for the team."

At practice Friday he spent extra time working on his mechanics with goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh.

"Focus on the fundamentals that were making the game sharp in training camp and the first game of the season," Mason said. "The tracking, making sure you're following the puck into your body, your glove. When you do that it's clean hockey. You're controlling where the puck is going. The next couple days here we'll focus on that a lot and make sure we're ready for the next game."

The Flyers don't play again until back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday at home against the Dallas Stars and at the Boston Bruins. Coach Dave Hakstol said he would decide Monday on his goaltending plans.

Mason said he'd like to play Tuesday and will prepare that way.

"I've got no set timeline," Mason said. "I'm preparing myself for Tuesday as I would in any normal situation. You're itching to get back out there and just start playing again. And start to have fun."

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