Steve Mason

Nolan Patrick returns for Flyers after 9-game absence

Nolan Patrick returns for Flyers after 9-game absence

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol confirmed after Thursday's morning skate that rookie Nolan Patrick will return to the lineup in his hometown when the Flyers take on the Jets at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg (8 p.m./NBCSP).

“Obviously it will be pretty exciting playing in front of a lot of family and friends,” said Patrick, who put on a pretty good poker face and never expressed any emotion or obvious enthusiasm about returning to game action just down the road from where he grew up. 

A handful of Flyers did not participate in the optional morning skate and Hakstol hasn’t put his team through line rushes over the past two days, and wouldn’t give an indication what line Patrick will be on or who he’ll skate with.

“I’m sure it’s been a learning experience for him, but he’s handled things very well,” Hakstol said. “He’s got good poise in all situations. Obviously being challenged with an injury early on isn’t ideal, but it’s another learning experience that a player has to handle well.”

Patrick has missed the previous nine games dealing with suspected concussion symptoms, dating back to the Flyers' game against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 24, and has gradually ramped up his practice routine over the past week. Last Thursday, Patrick skated with assistant coach Ian Laperriere and then went through a hard bag skate on consecutive days before rejoining his teammates on Monday.

“That’s something that I need to produce more when I get back," Patrick said. "My last couple of games before I got hurt I didn’t think I played really well. I’ll just try and get into a rhythm as fast I can when I get back.” 

“I thought there were a few games before the injury that he was starting to make a lot of plays in some tight areas in key situations,” Hakstol said. “Those were positives for me in the way he was growing on the offensive side of the game.”

With Patrick returning to the lineup, here’s how the Flyers' lineup might look against the Jets:

Forwards
Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Dale Weise-Valtteri Filppula-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Defensemen
Ivan Provorov-Robert Hagg
Brandon Manning-Shayne Gostisbehere
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Goalies
Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

No Mase to face
Former Flyers netminder Steve Mason will watch tonight’s game on the bench, backing up starter Connor Hellebuyck, who has clearly been Winnipeg’s better goaltender over the first month of the season. 

“I was looking forward to [this game],” Mason said. “Obviously, that’s not the case. We’ve got one more game against you guys later in the year, so maybe I’ll get the one back in Philly.”

Mason signed a two-year, $8.2 million contract with Winnipeg in the offseason and was brought in as the No. 1 goaltender, but he got off to a rocky start in his new surroundings as he surrendered 11 goals in his first two starts and has appeared in just four games since. He finally earned his first win in a Jets sweater this past Saturday when they beat the Coyotes in Arizona, 4-1.

“I played behind a team for five years and you get used to guys' tendencies and here you had to learn an entirely new group of guys," Mason said. "We have Tyler Myers, who’s just a towering defenseman and that alone is an adjustment to learn how to fight to look through him. You go from being comfortable playing behind a group of guys and you’re starting from scratch and that’s a little more difficult than I envisioned being.”

Mason’s only other opportunity to face his old teammates will come on March 10, when the Jets make their only visit to Philadelphia.

“I’m just looking forward to going back to Philly," Mason said. "I thoroughly enjoyed my time from start to finish. There were some good times and some bad times, but overall I look back on it with great memories. I always enjoyed playing in front of the fans, whether I get that start later in the year, it will be fun to go back there and play again.”

With Jets on tap, Flyers have proven better off without Steve Mason

uspresswire-flyers-steve-mason.jpg
USA Today Images

With Jets on tap, Flyers have proven better off without Steve Mason

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth sat side by side in their cramped stalls Wednesday afternoon at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg and shared a laugh after coming off the ice from their midday practice. 

The two NHL goaltenders have learned about sharing space, especially in net. If the NHL ever had a timeshare presentation, Elliott and Neuvirth could probably sell you on its benefits.

Financially, they’re both making nearly identical salaries, with Elliott at $2.75 million and Neuvirth $2.5 million.

Neither guy came into October expecting to be the No. 1 in net, and if they did, they certainly downplayed it within the media. It’s a ho-hum tandem that just goes about its business, which is quite the contrast from the past four seasons.

With Steve Mason, you knew what was on his mind, almost to a fault. 

He despised the shootout. He talked about facing the pressure, a lot. There was an admission a few years back that he vented to his parents, sometimes swearing, after a bad start or a string of rough outings. He was naturally upset he wasn’t named the starter for the season opener in Los Angeles. There was the disappointment of not having a contract after last season, and then the “clarity” of moving forward after the Flyers re-signed Neuvirth and not him. 

Whereas Ilya Bryzgalov was the organizational migraine, Mason was simply a wave of nausea. Perhaps he came at just the right time following the most disastrous contract ever. 

For a franchise that gets nearly as much grief for its goalies as the Cleveland Browns do with quarterbacks, finding one that is relatively low-key, along with a propensity for stopping the puck, should be high on the Flyers’ list.  

Privately, a few former and current Flyers told me Mason had a way about him that could rub players the wrong way. There was his body language and staredown after giving up a goal. Then on a few occasions he called out his teammates following a lackluster performance. Ironically, last season’s game right here in Winnipeg, a 3-2 loss, was a prime example: 

“It was up to us to make them feel uncomfortable,” Mason said after the March 22 game. “We're also facing a goaltender (Michael Hutchinson) who hadn't had a start in two months, and I don't think we made it hard enough for him. We need a better effort.

“We keep playing like this and we'll be mathematically eliminated before you know it. We've got to stop this win-one-lose-one [habit]. We have to have some growth on the team here.”

While there may have been some truth to Mason’s words, one could argue it wasn’t his place to point fingers. That’s especially the case on a team with a coach who keeps most of his criticisms in a clenched fist.

Not once can you recall Mason’s teammates calling out their netminder following a horrendous game or, say, giving up a goal in a first-round playoff game that slides right through the five-hole from 125 feet away.

However, Mason left Philadelphia ranked third on the franchise’s all-time games played list and wins list. Only NHL Hall of Famer Bernie Parent and Flyers Hall of Famer Ron Hextall had more. 

When Mason returns to Philadelphia, I’m sure the organization will have a video tribute for his four-plus years of service in orange and black. However, let’s face it, Hextall wanted no part of Mason moving forward.  

“I had wanted to go back there (to Philadelphia), but seeing that they wanted to go in a different direction, you take it as what it is,” Mason recently told The Winnipeg Sun. “Come the summer, there were no discussions, so you move on. I’m happy to be in Winnipeg.”

No discussions. No chance to stay at a reduced rate. No more Mason.

With the signing of Elliott, Hextall was able to save money, and so far, the Flyers’ pair of Elliott and Neuvirth has saved its share of pucks. The Flyers are currently tied for sixth in the NHL with a 2.61 goals against per game.

On the flip side, Mason has had to recover from a disastrous start, one that included surrendering five goals in each of his first three starts with the Jets. He has also been outplayed by Connor Hellebuyck. Mason finally earned his first win of the season this past Saturday against the Coyotes.

Goaltending may not be the Flyers’ greatest strength this season, but it’s clearly not a weakness. Perhaps more importantly, it’s a quiet corner in the locker room. 

Best of NHL: Steve Mason torched in Jets debut; Brayden Schenn helps Blues top Pens

Best of NHL: Steve Mason torched in Jets debut; Brayden Schenn helps Blues top Pens

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Patrick Marleau scored twice in his Maple Leafs debut and Toronto beat the Winnipeg Jets 7-2 on Wednesday night in the season opener for both teams.

The 38-year-old Marleau signed with Toronto as a free agent after 19 seasons with the San Jose Sharks. He has 510 career goals.

Nazem Kadri, James van Riemsdyk and William Nylander scored in a three-minute span in the first period. Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner also scored, and Frederik Andersen made 35 saves.

Mark Scheifele ended Andersen's shutout bid midway through the third period, and Mathieu Perreault also scored for Winnipeg.

New Jets goalie Steve Mason was pulled after Marleau's second goal 36 seconds into the third period, having allowed five goals on 20 shots. Connor Hellebuyck stopped nine of 11 shots in relief (see full recap).

Schenn helps Blues top Penguins in overtime
PITTSBURGH -- Alex Pietrangelo beat Matt Murray 1:15 into overtime to give the St. Louis Blues a 5-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night in the season opener for both teams.

The Blues recovered after letting a two-goal, third-period lead slip away when Pietrangelo's shot from the slot hit Murray and slipped under the crossbar for his second goal of the game.

Paul Stastny had a goal and an assist for the Blues, Brayden Schenn and Colton Parayko also scored, and Jake Allen finished with 34 saves.

Sidney Crosby and Conor Sheary scored 54 seconds apart in the third to tie it, but the Penguins couldn't complete the comeback on a night the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions raised the franchise's fifth Cup banner to the rafters at PPG Paints Arena. Justin Schultz and Olli Maatta also scored for the Penguins. Murray stopped 28 shots (see full recap).

McDavid's hat trick leads Oilers over Flames
EDMONTON, Alberta -- Connor McDavid scored a hat trick in the season opener, Cam Talbot made 26 saves and the Edmonton Oilers beat the Calgary Flames 3-0 on Wednesday night.

Mike Smith stopped 42 shots in his debut for the Flames, who fell to 0-7-1 in their last eight openers.

McDavid, the NHL MVP last season, began the scoring 11 minutes into the first period when he beat a helpless Smith after taking a pass from Leon Draisaitl.

Talbot had to be sharp on several occasions to keep the second period scoreless, although the Oilers led 29-21 in shots after 40 minutes.

Edmonton went up 2-0 eight minutes into the third as McDavid turned on the jets to blow past a pair of Calgary defenders and beat Smith up high on a breakaway. It was his third breakaway of the game and 150th career point.

McDavid put his third goal into an empty net as Draisaitl set him up again after a crushing hit by Milan Lucic pried the puck loose (see full recap).