UNIONDALE, NY -- Flyers coach Peter Laviolette says he was hoping to eventually give newly acquired Steve Mason a start in goal and felt that coming off a loss where he saw some action was the best time.
So Mason will start in what could arguably be labeled the Flyers most important game of the season tonight at Nassau County Coliseum against the New York Islanders.
With 10 games remaining, the Flyers are five points out of the final Eastern Conference playoff berth, trailing both the Islanders and New York Rangers, who are tied for seventh with 42 points.
Laviolette feels the fact that since Mason saw his first action with the team during the third period of Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Winnipeg and that he was able to practice on Monday, all went into the decision.
“Mason was brought here to be part of a goaltending duo,” Laviolette said following Tuesday’s morning skate. “We didn’t want to change things up with being on a streak and winning (four) games in a row and not getting him a practice and wanting to make sure he was ready.”
Mason, who was acquired last week from Columbus, replaced Ilya Bryzgalov and stopped all nine shots in Saturday’s third period at Winnipeg.
“I think getting him work in the last game and getting a good practice is a good opportunity," Laviolette said.
Mason was not made available to the media following the morning skate. The Flyers cited a team policy of not having the starting goalie talk to the press until after the game.
Bryzgalov enters the evening second in the NHL in minutes played with 2,059.25. He had started 36 of the Flyers first 38 games and was the only goalie in the NHL responsible for all of his team’s wins (17).
Bryzgalov attempted to be his diplomatic best when asked if he was surprised at being pulled on Saturday and not being in the starting lineup tonight.
“I am not surprised at all, why should I?” Bryzgalov asked. “You’ve got to understand, we are just employees here.”
He then expanded.
“We have a front office and coaches who make the decision about the lineup and what type of team they created,” he said. “...You come to the locker and they tell you and you can’t do anything about it; you must accept it, what are you going to say?”
Byyzgalov did admit that starting all but two of the first 38 games has taken its toll. When asked if he felt he needed a rest, he responded, “I was tired.”
When asked if he communicated to the team that he was tired, Bryzgalov said it’s team policy not to discuss those matters.
What will bring plenty of discussion is who will start in goal on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center against the Ottawa Senators, especially if Mason enjoys a successful starting debut.