Flyers ready for Olympic layoff to be over

Posted: February 27, 2014

Goalie Steve Mason and the Flyers are ready for the long layoff to end, ready to regain the mojo they created before the Olympic break.

When the Flyers return to action Thursday against visiting San Jose, they will be playing their first game in 19 days.

"It's all great to have time off and be able to relax and not have any stress, but at the end of the day, this is what we look forward to each and every day," Mason said Monday. "Practices get boring after a while, so it's nice to have something to look forward to."

"It's a long break. . . . It's killing us" not to play games, captain Claude Giroux said after an off-ice workout Tuesday in Voorhees.

The Flyers had a four-game winning streak and were playing their best hockey of the season at the break. Mason had three of those four victories, during which he had a 1.00 goals-against average and a .969 save percentage.

Mason, who grew up outside Toronto, went to the Bahamas with nine childhood friends during the break.

"It was nice to get away with the guys I grew up with, and for the rest of the break, I was back in my hometown of Oakville with friends and family," Mason said. "It was nice to get away from the pressures that the NHL season brings and just kind of refresh everything and get ready for this next stretch."

The Flyers play three games in the first four days after their break.

"There is obviously a sense of urgency to make sure that, come Thursday, we're not taking baby steps," said Mason, whose team is third in the closely contested Metropolitan Division. "We should be ready right off the first puck drop. That's what this first [practice] week back has been all about."

Mason has been working with goalie coach Jeff Reese to make sure he is sharp when the season restarts. The two closely watched some of the Olympic goalies - especially Tuukka Rask and Jonathan Quick - and the way they move around the net.

"There's a lot to learn every single day," Mason said. ". . . They're a couple of the best goaltenders in the league, and any time you can learn something from your peers, it's definitely something you want to take advantage of."

Reese said Mason and backup goalie Ray Emery kept themselves in great shape during the break, and they have been working on technical aspects of their games during practices.

"We really haven't had a chance to do a lot because the schedule has been so condensed, so it's nice to get out early" and refine their games, Reese said.

With the long break, practice becomes even more important so that the goalies don't lose the rhythm they had developed, Reese said.

"Both guys were going good going into the Olympic break, and there's no reason they can't get it back," Reese said. "I think they're well-rested, and mentally I think it's very important they got away from it a little bit, and they're both looking forward to getting into it. It's going to be important for them to continue to play well during the stretch run to help get us in."

Breakaways. The Flyers will try to defeat San Jose twice in a season for the first time since 1999-2000. . . . Winger Scott Hartnell said he studied the division races during the break, and he was asked whether he calculated how many points the Flyers will need to make the playoffs. "That's over my pay grade," he cracked. . . . The Flyers were not on the ice Tuesday but worked out in the gym. . . . Kimmo Timonen will be on the ice at Wednesday's 10:30 a.m. practice for the first time since returning from the Olympics.


scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull

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