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Mason returns to crease as Flyers visit Coyotes

by Jerry Brown

FLYERS (14-15-6) at COYOTES (13-18-4)


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Philadelphia Flyers will have goalie Steve Mason back in the lineup when they play the Arizona Coyotes on Monday.

Mason has missed the past three games after sustaining a back injury during practice Dec. 19. He was able to practice here Sunday and will start as the Flyers try to win for the fourth time in five tries during a season-long, eight-game road trip.

Mason's 6-10-5 record reflects Philadelphia's poor start to the season, but his 2.49 goals-against average and .921 save percentage show he's been a big part of its resurgence.

The Coyotes have had an unsettled goalie situation all season, but Devan Dubnyk has control of the net right now and is greatly responsible for Arizona's first winning streak since it won three in a row Nov. 2-7. Dubnyk will make his sixth start in the past seven games against the Flyers.

He stopped 63 of 65 shots in wins against the Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks, not counting four saves in the shootout to earn the extra point against Anaheim.

Dubnyk has been solid all season with a 2.52 GAA and a .922 save percentage. Arizona coach Dave Tippett has given starter Mike Smith every opportunity to snap out of a season-long funk before pulling him four goals into a 7-1 loss against the Vancouver Canucks on Dec. 22.

The Coyotes could be without center Joe Vitale, who sustained a lower-body injury against Anaheim but was able to finish the game. Vitale is questionable for Monday, and the Coyotes have called up forward Tyler Gaudet from the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League.

"If Vitale can't play he's the logical choice," Tippett said. "He's a good skater, smart and really sound. His faceoffs have improved, which is always a test for a young player. He's continued the progression we saw in an impressive training camp."

Forward Sam Gagner is playing his best hockey as a Coyote. He has seven points in the past five games and backed up a two-goal, two-assist game against Edmonton with an assist on defenseman Zbynek Michalek's goal against Anaheim.

"He's moving in the right direction," Tippett said. "There was a learning curve for Sam on the wing and I think he's found his niche. When you do things and get a few points you start to get some confidence and hopefully it continues."

Here are the projected lineups:


Michael RafflClaude GirouxJakub Voracek

Brayden SchennScott LaughtonWayne Simmonds

R.J. UmbergerSean CouturierMatt Read

Chris VandeVeldePierre-Edouard Bellemare - Vincent Lecavalier

Nicklas GrossmannMark Streit

Nick SchultzBraydon Coburn

Andrew MacDonald - Luke Schenn

Steve Mason

Ray Emery

Scratched: Michael Del Zotto, Carlo Colaiacovo, Zac Rinaldo

Injured: Kimmo Timonen (blood clot)


Mikkel BoedkerAntoine Vermette - Shane Doan

Martin Erat - Martin Hanzal - Sam Gagner

Tobias RiederKyle ChipchuraDavid Moss

Brandon McMillanTyler Gaudet - Lauri Korpikoski

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Zbynek Michalek

Keith Yandle - Michael Stone

Brandon Gormley - Connor Murphy

Devan Dubnyk

Mike Smith

Scratched: B.J. Crombeen, David Schlemko

Injured: Chris Summers (upper body), Joe Vitale (lower body)

Status report: The Flyers had an optional skate, but the same players who took part in the 4-1 loss against the Nashville Predators will go against the Coyotes. … Vitale was able to get on the ice for the optional skate Monday but made only a brief appearance. If Gaudet plays he would become the fifth Coyotes player to make his NHL debut in the first 36 games of the season, joining Rieder and forwards Justin Hodgman, Jordan Martinook and Brendan Shinnimin.

Who's hot: Dubnyk is 3-1-0 in his past four starts. … Voracek leads the NHL with 46 points and is 16 points off his career high of 62 posted last season. … Giroux's 30 assists are tied for second in the League, two behind Voracek. … Four of Ekman-Larsson's eight goals are game-winners and three have come in overtime, tops in the League.

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