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For Flyers, opportunity knocks; Mason starting in Ariz.

GLENDALE, Ariz. _ The Flyers are 3-1 on their season-high, eight-game road trip, and now they have four very beatable opponents: Arizona (tonight), Colorado (Wednesday), Carolina (Friday), and New Jersey (Saturday).

"We're a long ways from a great road trip. Yeah, we're 3-1, but we've got a lot of work to do, general manager Ron Hextall said. "You can't look at it like teams are non-playoff teams or you're not good at home, or whatever the case may be. As we've all found out since the salary- cap (era), every game is a tough game, and if you approach it the way you suggested there, we'll be 0-4 before you know it."

Goalie Steve Mason will return to action tonight after missing four games because of back spasms.

"We've got to come up with a win tonight. We've got to button down here and be more consistent. It's our biggest issue this year," Hextall said. "We're eight points out (of a playoff spot) because of our consistency. It's been a big issue. It' something that we as a group _ and as an organization _ have to get better at."

Despite getting points in nine of the last 11 games (6-2-3), the Flyers are still eight points out of the playoffs. That magnifies the last four games of the trip.

"We need the wins. That's the bottom line. Road, home, we need wins," coach Craig Berube said. "Whether we play the L.A. Kings (or whomever), we have to win. We've got to go out and play our best hockey.
"I told you at the beginning of the road trip that this was the biggest stretch of the season for me."
Despite the poor records of his next four opponents, Berube said the road trip doesn't get easier.

They will be facing an Arizona team that is coming off a 2-1 shootout win over Anaheim, which leads the NHL with 54 points.

Devan Dubnyk (8-3-2) will start for the Coyotes; he has a 2.52 GAA and .924 save percentage.

"They're a good defensive team and always have been," Berube said. "They're going to check us….and it will be tight."

Berube said he expects the Coyotes to be extra physical against Jake Voracek (46 points) and Claude Giroux (42), who are Nos. 1 and 3, respectively, among NHL scoring leaders.

Zepp headed to Phantoms.  Rob Zepp was sent back to the Phantoms. He had a 4-3 overtime win over Winnipeg last week in his only NHL appearance.

"He won a big game, a real big game," Berube said. "I go back to that save he made at the end of the second period _ it gave us life going into the third period, and we went out and played with an attitude."

Berube said Zepp's style, quickness, and structure in his game "give me confidence" if he has to be recalled in the future.

Zepp, 33, became the oldest player to win his NHL debut since 1926.

Breakaways. The Flyers have no interest in Dany Heatley, who was put on waivers by the Ducks…The Flyers' PP is 0 for 13 in their last five games, but they are 3-1-1 in that span….Michael Del Zotto will be scratched for the ninth straight game….Zac Rinaldo will miss his fourth straight game...South Jersey's Johnny Gaudreau (Gloucester Catholic) was named the NHL's player of the week; the Calgary rookie has six goals in his last three games.

Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.