Flyers trying to clear negative air

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Steve Mason and Kimmo Timonen look dejected after a Penguins goal.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Steve Mason and Kimmo Timonen look dejected after a Penguins goal.
Posted: October 21, 2013

STEVE MASON remembers the feeling all too well.

During his four full seasons in Columbus, playing for a franchise that has qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs just once in 12 seasons, the losses piled up quickly.

His team's record was a total of 136-147-45 during those four seasons - a number that is in some ways overinflated because of the NHL's parity-inducing wins and overtime losses format.

Most times, there was a constant negative air surrounding the team. It is one of the reasons Mason, 25, was eager for a new home last April at the trade deadline.

And that same negative air is now surrounding the Flyers, who are off to their worst start in franchise history at 1-7-0. But Mason - easily the team's most valuable player through the first 2 weeks of the season - is trying to do anything he can to avoid the same defeatist attitudes.

"My few years in Columbus, there were a lot of down times, a lot of losing that went on," Mason said. "When the losses start piling up early in the season, it's easy to let that affect us. It's easy to get frustrated.

"We can't let that affect us. There's obviously a lot of things that we need to cover to make sure we get out of this funk that we're in."

The Flyers have a week off to do so. Without a game until Thursday against the Rangers, they will not practice either day this weekend before three straight days of drills leading up to the game.

Mason has done his part. He is 5-7-0 with a .935 save percentage and 2.16 goals against-average since being acquired by the Flyers.

Perhaps, that is the real irony of this all: After such a long spell without any confidence in net, the Flyers are falling apart elsewhere. In some ways, Mason's play may even be giving the Flyers a bit of false hope.

"It's still a bad feeling," Wayne Simmonds said. "We haven't gotten blown out. But it feels crappy that we have going for us is our goaltender and we've let it go to waste. We've got to pick up the slack."

Matt Read said the Flyers need to "just try to make hockey a fun and positive atmosphere again," maybe something the 2 days away from the rink will accomplish.

The week off, Read said, will allow the Flyers to "put these eight games behind us and start another season." With a heavy practice workload, it will almost be an abbreviated training camp for Berube, who has coached the team for just five games.

It's not going to get any easier, though. Pittsburgh already has a 10-point lead in the Metropolitan Division. This is the Flyers' easiest stretch of the schedule by far, with eight of 11 games at home in October, and only 11 games in the month overall. They play 15 and 14 games in most of the other months of this season because of the 3-week Olympic break in February.

After their "hardest practice of the year," captain Claude Giroux reminded that there are still 74 games left.

"That's a lot of games," Giroux said.

Yes, there are plenty of games to get back in the race, but truly hitting the reset button this week will be key.

"Hockey is something that we've all dreamed of playing for a job," Read said. "If you're not here having fun and putting in a full effort, you're in the wrong industry."

Penalty gaffe

The NHL followed up with the Flyers' scoreboard error during Thursday night's loss to the Penguins. At the beginning of the second period, Braydon Coburn was released from the penalty box 20 seconds early, after serving only 1:40 of his 2-minute minor.

Play continued, but Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was not happy about it post-game.

"It was human error," NHL senior vice president of hockey operations Mike Murphy said. "During the intermission, the penalty clock was to be flipped to intermission mode. It wasn't. When they ran a 20-second promo spot during the intermission, the time ticked off the penalty. The time run-off wasn't noticed at the start of the period, causing Braydon Coburn to only serve 1:40 of a 2:00 penalty."

The NHL rulebook does not allow for any remedy to the disadvantaged team in a situation like that one.

Injury updates

Kimmo Timonen's injury is not considered serious. Timonen, 38, left Thursday's game with 6 minutes remaining in the second period with a "lower-body" injury. He is officially listed as "day-to-day." Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said he expects Timonen to be on the ice when practice resumes on Monday.

Ray Emery and Jake Voracek also did not practice yesterday, with coach Craig Berube calling them "maintenance days." Emery has not played since last Saturday in Detroit, but Berube said he was taking care of "a couple things wrong with him." Voracek seemed to tweak his right knee against the Penguins but Berube said he is fine.

Slap shots

The Flyers do not practice again until Monday . . . Vinny Lecavalier (lower-body) and Scott Hartnell (upper-body) are expected to begin skating on their own on Sunday. Lecavalier, 33, could be ready for Thursday's game against the Rangers, but Hartnell's 3-to-4 week timetable has not changed . . . Berube said Lecavalier's status "depends on if he can get on the ice and get some skating in, because just coming back after not skating enough and getting his legs under him is not a good idea."


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