Working with Steve Mason

Posted: April 05, 2013

TORONTO - For the last five seasons, Flyers goaltending coach Jeff Reese has carefully tracked Steve Mason. Poring over hours of highlights, Reese broke down a good portion of Mason's starts with the Blue Jackets, beginning with his Calder Trophy season in 2008-09.

Mason, 24, was acquired from Columbus before Wednesday's trade deadline in exchange for Michael Leighton and a third-round pick. Reese had a lot to do with that.

Mason has fallen so far from that rookie of the year season that it's easy to forget that he was one of only five goalies invited to Canada's Olympic tryout camp in 2010, when he was 21. Martin Brodeur, Marc-Andre Fleury, Roberto Luongo and Cam Ward were the others, even leaving the Canadiens' Carey Price off the list.

"I don't think you can find many guys with his size who can move that well, recover that quickly," Reese said Thursday. "I'm really excited about getting him. I think it was a confidence issue with him. He was beaten down. It's time to start enjoying the game again."

Reese, who shares the same agent as Mason, believes Mason has a unique advantage. Mason is only the second righthanded-catching goaltender in Flyers history, other than Stephane Beauregard (16 games in 1992-93). J-S Aubin was also a right-catching netminder for the Flyers, but he only appeared in a preseason game.

Less than 10 percent of the NHL's goaltenders catch with their right hand. Reese has never worked with one, though he played against the most famous: Grant Fuhr. Tom Barrasso, Jose Theodore, Rick DiPietro and Tomas Vokoun are some of the other righties.

"I think it's a huge advantage," Reese said. "It provides a different look for shooters. I think sometimes when they enter the zone, they are programmed to shoot in a specific direction - mostly high and blocker side."

Mason could start his first game as a Flyer on Saturday in Winnipeg. He took shots from scratches Tye McGinn and Kurtis Foster at the pregame skate at Air Canada Centre before Ilya Bryzgalov made his 21st consecutive start Thursday night.

Mason's agent, Anton Thun, told the Daily News that he expects a 1-year contract extension to be completed within the next week for less money than he currently makes. Mason is a pending restricted free agent with a $2.9 million salary cap hit. Look for a deal in the $2 million range.

In the meantime, Reese - one of the game's best teachers - will begin to tweak Mason's potential-filled style.

"I'm here to become the goalie that I know I can be," Mason said. "I'm leaving whatever's happened in the past there. You can tell yourself that you're hitting the reset button each season [in Columbus], but . . . the tires are spinning and you're not going anywhere. I'm fully prepared to put the work in."

Rinaldo out

The Flyers' long injury list grew a bit longer Thursday, with the addition of forward Zac Rinaldo. Rinaldo will be out indefinitely with a left high ankle sprain, suffered in the second period of Wednesday's win over Montreal. Danny Briere (concussion), Andrej Meszaros (shoulder) and Braydon Coburn (shoulder) are all also out indefinitely. Paul Holmgren officially declared this week that Max Talbot's season is over, thanks to a broken left leg. Bruiser Jay Rosehill, acquired in a minor trade Monday from Anaheim, made his Flyers debut Thursday. Rosehill had played all 72 of his career NHL games for the Maple Leafs. It took him all of 11 minutes and 42 seconds to notch his first fight in a Flyers uniform, when he dropped the gloves with Colton Orr.

'JVR' revisited

When the Flyers last visited hockey's nerve center in February, former Flyer James van Riemsdyk offered a poignant referendum on his controversial summer swap for Luke Schenn.

"JVR" netted a breakaway goal, helping Toronto to a 5-2 win. It was his eighth goal in the first 13 games of the season, as he filled in for injured forward Joffrey Lupul on the first line with Phil Kessel. He added another six goals in the next 13 games but has gone rather quiet since, with Lupul back in the lineup.

Van Riemsdyk's goal Thursday night in the Flyers' 5-3 win was his first in the last 11 games, but he hasn't really felt the pressure with players like Lupul and Nazem Kadri picking up the slack and pushing the Leafs toward their first playoff berth since 2004.

"It's been a while," JVR said with a grin Thursday. "Things haven't come as easy for me lately. That's going to happen. Chris Pronger told me during my rookie year that when you're not scoring offensively, you've got to be contributing in other ways. That was a good lesson. I think I've been able to do that, not turning pucks over. I'm trying to be a presence in other ways."

On Twitter: @DNFlyers

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