PHILADELPHIA - The Flyers will make an expected but big change for Friday night's Game 4, bringing Steve Mason back in goal.
"You guys didn't figure that out?" coach Craig Berube joked to reporters Thursday after practice. "[Mason] is ready to go. He's looked good."
He was ready to go for Game 3 on Tuesday night after missing 10 days with an upper-body injury, but Philly was coming off a 4-2 win in Game 2 in which Ray Emery played well, stopping 31 Rangers shots.
That earned the backup goalie another start. But once Emery fumbled Rick Nash's toss from the side boards onto Derek Stepan's waiting stick just 3:54 into Game 3, Berube might have wished he'd simply gone back to Mason right away. He dropped Mason into the final 7:15 of Game 3 to see some real action for the first time in more than a week.
Mason earned the No. 1 job for the Flyers very early this season, as Berube replaced Peter Laviolette three games in and almost immediately made the 25-year-old the starter.
The Flyers have been searching for someone to solidify the goaltending position for roughly the last 15 years, since Ron Hextall's second stint ended (he's the assistant general manager now).
They picked up Mason at the 2012-13 trade deadline from the Blue Jackets, who have their own Vezina Trophy winner in Sergei Bobrovsky. The Flyers signed Bobrovsky out of the KHL in 2010, only to let him go in favor of Ilya Bryzgalov.
In any event, Mason was one of the better goaltending choices the Flyers have made since the 1990s, and he was rewarded with a three-year, $12.3-million extension. So it makes sense in the short and the long term that the Flyers turn to Mason in an attempt to avoid falling into a 3-1 series hole Friday night.
"It's the second day in a row, third day really, where there have been no issues on the ice, and that's a good feeling," Mason said. "Yeah, I'll be ready. You don't want to be sitting on the sidelines, especially come playoff time. If you [do] something that can help the team win a hockey game, that's a good feeling."