Practice Report: Mason Out for Flyers, Rangers Talk Adjustments

By Matt Calamia

The question headed into Game 2 was whether Flyers goaltender Steve Mason would return to the lineup, or if backup goaltender Ray Emery, who started and lost Game 1, would return. That question was answered Saturday morning: it’ll be Emery in net.

“For the most part, I felt pretty solid. I’m getting better every day, but I won’t be playing tomorrow,” Mason told reporters following Philadelphia’s practice at Madison Square Garden Saturday afternoon. He declined to say what is bothering him, but did say his goal now was to be ready for Game 3 Tuesday night in Philadelphia.

“It’s a day-to-day thing,” Flyers head coach Craig Berube said. “[He] practiced today and we just make decisions. We talked it over and he’s not ready.”

While the question was in the air, the Rangers said their approach won’t change regardless of who is in net for the Flyers Sunday afternoon.

“Our game plan isn’t going to change,” Rangers forward Brad Richards said. “Whoever is in net, we’ve got to get pucks to the net. We can’t give up shots. Same terms every team is going to use going into a playoff round.”

Derick Brassard, who played with Mason in Columbus and knows the netminder well, echoed Richards’ sentiments.

“We’re just going to make sure we do what we did in Game 1,” Brassard said. “Not passing on any shots and make sure” we test the goalie early.

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The Rangers played as strong a game Thursday night as a team could ask for. They controlled the puck, were strong on special teams and allowed 15 shots on goal total. With that said, the Blueshirts said there are still areas in which they can improve upon.

“You always have to work on a few things to improve and we have to expect a tougher game,” Henrik Lundqvist said after practice. “We have to be ready for a physical game and a faster game. We did a lot of good things [in Game 1] and if we continue with that, improve a few things, we’ll have a good chance.”

While the team did play well Thursday night, Richards said improves are necessary because no two games are alike. He also expects a better effort out of the Flyers, who will be desperate for a split as the series then shifts back to Philadelphia for Game 3.

“They’re going to be a lot different and we have to match that or even more,” Richards said. “This is where we have to realize that the level is going to go way higher, and we can’t get caught resting on Game 1. It’s a whole new game. It’s going to be a whole new speed, intensity level and we have to rise to that.”

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The Rangers’ winning streak over the Flyers at the Garden was extended to nine games following Thursday’s Game 1 win.

While the numbers are strong in favor of the Blueshirts — who have out-scored the Flyers 35-10 since the streak began on Feb. 20, 2011 — Lundqvist said that hasn’t crossed his mind.

“You just have to be focused on tomorrow,” Lundqvist said when asked about the streak. “Whatever happened last game or last year, it doesn’t matter.

“We’re a confident group when we play the way we can. We believe in ourselves but at the same time, we know they’re a skilled team.”