Flyers' Mason works out, but it's still unsure he will play

Posted: April 20, 2014

NEW YORK - The puck wheeled around the ice between the Flyers' extra players, while goaltending coach Jeff Reese stood in front of Steve Mason to block his vision.

The sight - no shooting, just passing - was as unique as the setting, with boats bobbing on the Hudson River outside the window of the Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan.

It was a warmup exercise for Mason to track the puck with his eyes.

The Flyers have not divulged anything about their starting goaltender's condition, and have not ruled out a concussion, but his movements yesterday seemed to confirm a poorly kept secret. Mason looked like a goaltender struggling to shake the cobwebs.

The hourlong skate was Mason's first real test since being run over in Pittsburgh a week ago. He eventually took shots, but offered no hint as to whether he will be Craig Berube's starter tomorrow afternoon in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference playoff series against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

"It was a pretty controlled setting, and it felt good," Mason said afterward. "I'm definitely smiling. Things have been getting better each day. We still have a couple days before Sunday rolls around, so that's definitely my goal."

Mason said he will be back on the ice today for his first full practice with the team since getting hurt. He was never really tested yesterday, taking only shots from a distance and long breaks in-between drills, what Mason termed as "all just feel-good goalie stuff."

When asked whether he had any trouble on the ice yesterday, Mason replied, "Nothing that would overly concern me."

Mason is antsy, to be sure. He has not qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs since 2009, his rookie season in Columbus, when the Blue Jackets were swept by Detroit. His team never led at any point in the series.

After being healthy for his entire bounce-back regular season until Game 81, Mason was forced to watch Game 1 of the real season in a business suit.

"It was difficult. Very frustrating," Mason said. "This is a time that you've worked all season to get to, and to see the team go out there in a playoff atmosphere in Madison Square Garden, where the stakes are so high, that's something you don't want to be sitting and watching."

Berube said he will consult with Reese and make perhaps his biggest decision of the season to date before tomorrow's grudge match.

Ray Emery was not nearly at fault for the Flyers' 4-1 loss on Thursday. The truth is that if Flyers play the same way in Game 2, it won't matter who is in net. With that noted, Mason is clearly the quicker goaltender when he is healthy - and there is no question that would benefit the team. Mason is the only one, though, who truly knows his health.

"As a player, you're probably going to say you're ready to go back before you actually are," Mason said. "Watching Ray, I think he played a great game, so that kind of eases the feel of urgency, in a sense, because he was so strong. If I'm ready to go [tomorrow], then I'm ready to go. If not, Ray was definitely not the reason we came out on the losing end."

Slap shots

Craig Berube said he did not yet make up his mind about any lineup changes for tomorrow's game. Although he was whistled for the double-minor penalty that proved so costly in Game 1, resulting in two power-play Rangers goals, Jason Akeson accounted for three of the Flyers' 15 shots on goal. If Berube decides to make the swap, Chris VandeVelde could make his playoff debut . . . Steve Downie (upper-body injury) did not skate with the Flyers' scratches yesterday . . . Winger Tye McGinn was returned to the Phantoms . . . Flyers prospect Shayne Gostisbehere made his professional debut with the Phantoms last night in their last-ever home game in Glens Falls, N.Y.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: ph.ly/FrequentFlyers

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