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Personal matter keeps Flyers' Mason out vs. Panthers

by Adam Kimelman

PANTHERS (1-0-0) at FLYERS (0-1-1)


PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Steve Mason will not be in the lineup Monday against the Florida Panthers because of a personal situation.

"We just ask that you respect his privacy," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said. "It's a sensitive issue. I think it's a fair request."

When asked if Mason's absence would be long-term, Hextall said, "I don't believe so." Hextall said he wasn't sure if Mason would be available for the game Wednesday against the Chicago Blackhawks.

In Mason's absence Michal Neuvirth will make his first start with the Flyers. He played the final 53 minutes of the Flyers' 7-1 loss Saturday to the Panthers, allowing three goals on 22 shots.

"It's obviously sad news," Neuvirth said. "But we've got business to do. I thought we had a good pregame skate. I did my normal routine like a regular game day and I'm ready to go."

In three preseason games, Neuvirth was 2-1-0 with a 3.00 goals-against average and .869 save percentage.

"We've got all the confidence in [Neuvirth]," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. "I don't think it changes our approach at all going in to the hockey game."

It will be a slightly different approach as the Flyers make two other lineup changes. Forward Sam Gagner will make his Flyers debut in place of R.J. Umberger, who is day-to-day because of an upper-body injury. And defenseman Radko Gudas will play in place of Luke Schenn.

"I've just got to go out and play my game," said Gagner, who was a healthy scratch the first two games. "I think that's the only thing I can really worry about, just focusing on my individual game and hopefully if I do that I can help the team get the two points."

For Gudas, it will be his first game since Dec. 29, 2014 because of knee surgery.

"He's done a good job," Hakstol said. "He made a lot of progress coming off the injury in training camp. That's all in the past right now. His last couple [preseason] games he played well, he's practiced well. He brings an element to our lineup and I'm sure he'll do that."

Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said he will use the same lineup as Saturday. That means the line of Nick Bjugstad centering left wing Reilly Smith and right wing Brandon Pirri will remain together. That line combined for three goals and two assists, including two goals by Smith in his first game with the Panthers.

"When we traded for Smith, coaches always jot down line combinations that you think are going to work, you hope they're going to work," Gallant said. "We weren't going to mess with the [Aleksander] Barkov line from last year. So we put this line together and so far it's been good."

Smith, who was acquired from the Boston Bruins on July 1, had natural chemistry with Pirri; they each grew up in Toronto and played on the same minor-hockey team, the Toronto Young Nationals.

"We played minor hockey together for six or seven years," Smith said. "So we have some chemistry left over from that."

Here are the projected lineups:


Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr

Brandon Pirri - Nick Bjugstad - Reilly Smith

Jussi Jokinen - Dave Bolland - Vincent Trocheck

Connor Brickley - Derek MacKenzie - Shawn Thornton

Brian Campbell - Aaron Ekblad

Willie Mitchell - Erik Gudbranson

Dmitry Kulikov - Alex Petrovic

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Injured: none

Scratched: Steven Kampfer, Quinton Howden, Dylan Olsen


Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek

Matt Read - Scott Laughton - Wayne Simmonds

Brayden Schenn - Sean Couturier - Sam Gagner

Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Ryan White

Nick Schultz - Mark Streit

Michael Del Zotto - Brandon Manning

Evgeny Medvedev - Radko Gudas

Michal Neuvirth

Jason LaBarbera

Injured: R.J. Umberger (upper body)

Scratched: Vincent Lecavalier, Luke Schenn, Steve Mason

Status report: The Panthers assigned forward Rocco Grimaldi to Portland of the American Hockey League. … In 20 games against the Flyers, Luongo is 8-8-3 with a 2.86 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. A win Monday would be the 403rd of his career and tie him with Grant Fuhr for ninth all-time. … The Flyers recalled LaBarbera, 35, from Lehigh Valley of the AHL. He has 187 games of NHL experience, including five last season with the Anaheim Ducks. 

Who's hot: Jagr's two goals Saturday gave him 724 for his career, seven behind Marcel Dionne for fourth place on the all-time list. … Read has six goals in 13 games against the Panthers.


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