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Mason 'doing better,' will join Flyers Friday

NEW YORK _ Flyers goalie Steve Mason, who will miss Thursday's playoff opener against the host Rangers because of an upper-body injury, is "doing better" and will join the team in New York on Friday, coach Craig Berube said.

Berube said he didn't know if Mason would be available for Sunday's game. Still, he seemed encouraged that the goalie was on his way to recovery.

Ray Emery will start Thursday. The Flyers have lost eight straight at Madison Square Garden since 2011.

Eying quick start. Flyers winger Scott Hartnell said the first 10 minutes Thursday could set the tone.

"I think the start for us is going to be huge," he said. "Both teams will probably have a little nerves. I think the team that keeps it simple, gets pucks deep…will probably have the best start."

Hartnell said it'll be "electric" in MSG, "and we have to feed off that."

"You generally want to be physical. You want to let the other team that you're here to play, that you're ready," Simmonds said of the game's start. "That's what we're going to do; that's what we're going to try to do, anyway."

Building hatred. Claude Giroux said the Flyers and Rangers "respect each other as persons," and later added that "the more hatred there is between players, that's when the series is even better."

Bearded wonders. Jake Voracek showed up at practice Wednesday with his reddish beard dyed black.

At Thursday's morning skate, Scott Hartnell had the same look.

"He did it yesterday and I couldn't let him do it alone, so after dinner last night I went to the drug store and got some Just for Men," Hartnell said. "I don't know if it'll catch on with the team, but I couldn't let him go."

Teammate Wayne Simmonds sounded as if he doesn't like the look, but understands it.

"Those guys are 'gingys,' he said of the red-headed players, "and should stick to being gingys."

He paused.

"They've taken upon themselves to (go) black…whatever gets them ready, right?"

Hartnell and Voracek are wingers on a line centered by Giroux, another ginger, who doesn't think he will join the Black Beard Club.

"I haven't decided yet. Right now it's a no," he said with a grin. "It's a tough look."

We presume he meant "tough" as in ugly.

Rinaldo returns. After serving a four-game suspension for an illegal check, winger Zac Rinaldo will return to the lineup Thursday. He will be on the fourth line, with Vinny Lecavalier and Adam Hall.

Rinaldo says he will remain his aggressive self on the ice.

"I don't want to think to myself I have to tip-toe around people in different situations, because if I do I might be throwing myself off my game," he said.

Getting suspended and missing four games "makes me hungrier," he said.

Before games, Rinaldo said he doesn't ever look on to scout videos of players he may fight.

"If I do that, I'd chill myself out with anxiety," he said. "I've never done that and never will."

Breakaways. The Flyers are 118-114-37-7 lifetime against the Rangers, and 51-61-23-3 at MSG…Simmonds was asked if the Flyers were targeting the injured shoulder of Rangers D-man Ryan McDonagh. "You don't want to do any harm on anyone, but you have to be physical," Simmonds said…..Jason Akeson called it a "dream come true" to make his NHL playoff debut Thursday; he will be on a line with Sean Couturier and Matt Read….Ex-Flyer Dan Carcillo will be a healthy scratch Thursday, the Rangers said....The Flyers are 23-9 when they win Game 1 in a series; they are 15-21 when they lose a playoff opener.

Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.