NEW YORK, N.Y. – Steve Mason still isn’t feeling well enough to play, so Ray Emery will be back in the net for the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 2 against the New York Rangers.
Mason has been sidelined for a week because of an undisclosed upper-body injury after he was knocked over and hit his head on the ice against Pittsburgh. He and the Flyers have declined to say whether the goalie sustained a concussion.
Mason was back at practice with his teammates at Madison Square Garden on Saturday after working out alone Friday, but wore down near the end of the 45-minute session. After he spoke with coach Craig Berube and general manager Paul Holmgren, it was decided that Mason would sit out again Sunday.
“For the most part, I felt pretty solid,” Mason said in the cramped dressing room. “I’m getting better every day, but I won’t be playing.”
Again declining to reveal what was ailing him, Mason said whatever the problem was became an issue in the final 10 minutes of practice. Mason was down on his knees in a low crouch with his head down while Berube addressed the team at centre ice.
“We decided that we needed to give it a little more time before I get back in there,” Mason said.
Mason won’t serve as Emery’s backup Sunday, so Cal Heeter—who wasn’t at practice—will have to be summoned back from the AHL. Mason is hopeful to play in Game 3 on Tuesday in Philadelphia.
“I am going to make that my goal and make sure I’m getting enough rest as possible to make sure that when I do get back in I am 100 per cent and ready to help the team rather than be a liability,” he said. “We’re doing everything that we can to make sure that we’re treating it the proper way.”
The Rangers took to the Garden ice about 90 minutes before the Flyers and then fielded questions about how different it would be facing the right-handed catching Mason as opposed to Emery’s left glove hand.
Now that they won’t have to adjust to a new goalie, the Rangers can focus on trying to repeat their shutdown effort of Game 1 when they limited the Flyers to 15 shots and earned a 4-1 victory with three third-period goals.
“We know our game plan works if we all buy into it and we all do the same things,” Rangers forward Rick Nash said.
The Rangers carry a nine-game home winning streak over the Flyers into Game 2—including a 3-0 mark this season. Whether the location has anything to do with it or not, they have kept Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux without a shot in the past two games at MSG.
New York has outscored Philadelphia 35-10 during the winning streak and allowed two goals or fewer in each of the nine games.
“We’ve got to take what they give us,” Giroux said. “Whatever the play is, we obviously don’t want to turn it over against these guys. They’re pretty good on the rush, so we’ve got to make sure we play our game.
“When we win battles, our scoring chances will go higher.”
Giroux said he isn’t feeling any negative pressure to perform.
“You want to be in this position,” he said. “You want to be in the playoffs. You want to be in charge, and you want to be the one making the difference. That’s the best part about the playoffs.”
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault appeared relaxed and in a good mood during his media session. He wouldn’t say if he would make any lineup changes for Sunday, but after his club limited Philadelphia to four offensive zone faceoffs in the series opener, no major adjustments seem necessary yet.
“This is where we have to realize that the level is going to go way higher, and we can’t get caught resting on Game 1,” Rangers forward Brad Richards said.
The Flyers are ready, too, even if they haven’t won at the Garden in over three years.
“We’ve got to come out with the attitude that we came here for a split and bring the momentum after a Game 2 win back to Philly,” Flyers forward Scott Hartnell said. “It’s awesome. It’s MSG. It’s playoff time. From the national anthem to the puck drop—even when they score, and that stupid goal song that they sing, it’s pretty cool.
“You’ve got to enjoy it. Obviously, we don’t want to hear that song four times (Sunday), but we’ve got to be jacked up and ready to roll.”