Blue Notes

Steve Zipay takes you inside the locker room, home and on the road, with the New York Rangers, and also writes about the NHL, off and on the ice.

After Game 3 win, Rangers ready for Steve Mason

Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason faces the action

Philadelphia Flyers goalie Steve Mason faces the action during the first period of a game against the Islanders in Philadelphia on Jan. 18, 2014. (Credit: AP / Tom Mihalek)

Steve Mason is several inches taller than Ray Emery and five years younger. And he catches with his right hand.

So there are some visible differences between the Flyers goaltender who started the first three games of the series and the one who will start the fourth on Friday.

It's the intangibles that will matter.

Emery faced 89 Ranger shots and stopped 79 for an .888 save percentage, which is triggering Mason’s return in Game 4 on Friday.

With the Flyers hosting a pivotal game at Wells Fargo Center, they are relying on Mason, who won 33 games this season but hasn’t started since April 12, when he sustained an upper-body injury in a collision with Pittsburgh’s Jayson Megna with 3:33 left in the second period.

Not only will Mason, 26, have been sidelined 12 days before Friday, he has not started a postseason game since 2009. As a rookie, Mason was in the net for the Columbus Blue Jackets when they were swept by the Red Wings and allowed 17 goals in four games.

Mason replaced Emery for the final 7:15, stopped the three shots he faced and practiced with the spares Wednesday. “I feel fine,” Mason said. “It’s been a steady progression.”

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault fully expects Mason, who won both regular-season games against the Rangers in Philadelphia, to be back.

“We’re going to see another goaltender,” Vigneault said Wednesday on a conference call. “We’re going to have a plan for that.”

Game 4 is critical for the Flyers because the schedule is not kind: Games 5, 6 and 7, if the last two are necessary, would be played in four nights, so it was not surprising that captain Claude Giroux defiantly predicted post-game that the Flyers would win Friday and tie the series.

“What Giroux said is totally expected,” said Vigneault. “They expect to go into the next game and win; I’m sure our guys feel the same way, that’s part of competitive nature. I can’t forsee any one of our players not stepping on the ice anytime and not thinking they can win.’’

****             

Although he was unhappy with Benoit Pouliot’s penalties that negated two first-period power plays, Vigneault didn’t bench him because “you have to trust your players…I know Benny’s intentions were good, he felt (Andrew) MacDonald had taken a dive on both occasions and felt he didn’t get a fair shake…There was still a lot of hockey to be played, and I felt that the way Ben had been playing for us for a long stretch of time that he deserved an opportunity to redeem himself.”…Matt Read was not disciplined or fined for the non-penalized shoulder to the jaw that dazed Dan Carcillo in Game 3.

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