VOORHEES, N.J. – Steve Mason kept the Philadelphia Flyers afloat when they struggled early in the season. Now they may have to start the playoffs without their No. 1 goalie.
Mason practiced for 15 minutes before leaving the ice Tuesday, three days after he sustained an upper-body injury during a collision against Pittsburgh. Coach Craig Berube was uncertain whether Mason will play against the New York Rangers on Thursday night in Game 1 of their playoff series.
“I thought he looked decent,” Berube said, adding that Mason’s brief appearance at practice was planned. “He came out there for a little bit and got some work in, and I thought he looked pretty good.”
General manager Paul Holmgren refused to discuss specifics about Mason’s injury. He also declined to rule out whether it was a concussion.
“We’re at a critical time of our season and I don’t feel I need to divulge what’s wrong with a player,” Holmgren said.
Mason was 33-18-7 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .917 save percentage this season. He helped the Flyers overcome a 1-7 start and coaching change to make the playoffs.
The former NHL Rookie of the Year solidified a position that’s been a major problem area for the Flyers, especially in the playoffs. They started two goalies during their run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010 and dumped Ilya Bryzgalov last summer just two seasons into a $51 million, nine-year deal.
Mason didn’t speak to reporters after practice because he was having treatment for his injury.
“I feel better each day and we’ll see how I feel tomorrow,” Mason told the public relations staff in a text.
If Mason can’t play, Ray Emery will start. Emery was 9-12-2 with a 2.96 goals-against average and .903 save percentage this season. He was 17-1 as a backup for the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks last year.
Asked how much confidence he has in Emery, Berube turned the question around.
“How confident did I look all year with him?” Berube said.
Mason has played in only one career playoff series as a rookie for Columbus in 2009. He allowed 17 goals and the Blue Jackets were swept by Detroit in four games.
Meanwhile, the Rangers have eight-time All-Star and former Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist in net. Lundqvist is 27-13-3 in his career against Philadelphia. But the Flyers are up for the challenge.
“This time of year you want to be playing and playing your best,” captain Claude Giroux said. “We’re a young team with a lot of energy and attitude. We have to bring that to New York. We had momentum at the end of the season and feeling good about our game. We’re aware that New York is a really good team, one of the best in the league. If we’re going to win the series, we have to bring our best game.”
NOTES: The Flyers signed defenceman Andrew MacDonald to a six-year contract reportedly worth $30 million. MacDonald was acquired from the New York Islanders before the trade deadline and would’ve become an unrestricted free agent after the season. “Before I got traded here, I had identified this as a place that I would like to look into if I went to free agency,” MacDonald said. “The Flyers are a team that will always compete and spend the money. They go for it every year. That is important to any player. You want to be competitive and try to win it all every year.”