Goalie Steve Mason has been with the Flyers less than a year, but he has a pretty good feel for the bitterness between his club and the Sidney Crosby-led Penguins.
The teams will meet in a home-and-home series this weekend, starting with Saturday’s 1 p.m. matchup at the Wells Fargo Center.
“I got a chance to play them earlier in the season,” Mason said of a 4-1 loss that included an empty-net Penguins goal. “You can just see the way the fans interact during the game. There’s not a lot of love for the team over there, so you get a grasp for it.
“But I don’t think you should approach a game any differently just because it’s a certain opponent.”
Mason, who appears to have been thrown out of the rhythm by the Olympic break, will try to regain his sharpness against the high-scoring Penguins.
Coach Craig Berube would not reveal his starter for Saturday, but he dropped hints that Mason will get the call.
In his last three games before the Olympic break, Mason had a 1.00 goals-against average and .969 save percentage. In the first six games since the break, he has a 3.49 GAA and .880 save percentage.
The stoppage, Mason conceded, didn’t come at the best time.
“When you’re going well, obviously you want to keep playing, and the Olympic break dragged on for three weeks out of the season, so that was tough,” Mason said after Friday’s practice in Voorhees. “But you slowly get back in the swing of things and start feeling good again.”
Mason said that with each game, he has felt “more and more comfortable.”
The Flyers and Penguins, arguably the NHL’s most intense rivalry, will also play Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh, where Ray Emery scored a 2-1 win earlier this season. Emery, who has been sidelined with a groin injury, is expected to play Sunday for the first time since Feb. 27 _ and make his first start since Feb. 8.
Mason was asked if he got an extra kick facing Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Company.
“Any time you’re playing against the best players in the world, it’s a good measuring stick, I guess, because they are top players and you want to always be the best,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for us.”
In 45 career games against the Flyers, Crosby has 30 goals and 75 points, while Malkin has 22 goals and 58 points in 41 games against them.
The Penguins are without injured defensemen Kris Letang and Paul Martin, but they are cruising to the Metropolitan title. Pittsburgh will also be without winger James Neal (22 goals), who is out indefinitely with a concussion.
In recent history, the visiting team has dominated this series.
“Sometimes at home, our emotions get to us a little bit, maybe, and we kind of put ourselves in tough spots,” Berube said. “You have to control your emotions at home.”
MacDonald update. General manager Paul Holmgren said the Flyers won’t start negotiating with defenseman Andrew MacDonald, a pending unrestricted agent, for a few weeks. “Kind of a honeymoon period,” he said. “We’ll let him settle in and get a feel for what we’re all about.”
Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.