WITH ONE foot in the frying pan and another one in a pressure cooker, Steve Mason will step into the Flyers' crease tomorrow night for Game 4.
The scenario is simple, if not terrifying: win and guarantee another home game at Wells Fargo Center, or lose and face the possibility of your season ending Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, where the Flyers have won just once since February 2011.
"I think every game in a playoff series is pretty much a must-win," Mason said. "But I think the stakes, with us going back to MSG, it's pretty much as must-win as you can get."
Coach Craig Berube confirmed after Thursday's practice that his No. 1 goaltender will start in Game 4 - which will be just Mason's first since being run over by Jayson Megna on April 12 in Pittsburgh.
Mason confirmed he is ready to start.
If Berube's waving of the white flag with 7:15 to play in Tuesday's Game 3 was any indication, the only doubt as to whether Mason would be his man hinged on today's practice. Berube yanked Ray Emery with the Flyers trailing 4-1 to get his No. 1 goaltender a little action before diving into the deep end of the pool tomorrow night.
Since Mason faced only three shots against the Rangers, he wasn't sure what kind of value the appearance provided. For the record, he said he was "fully supportive" of Emery starting for the third game in a row, even though he was apparently healthy enough to play.
"When you're sitting on the bench for the first 50 minutes of a game, it's hard to judge things after that," Mason said. "I've just been paying more attention to my practices and they've been good, so I don't think there's much to worry about."
Game 4 will be Mason's first playoff start since April 23, 2009. He has never played with a lead in a playoff game or series - and he will be starting from behind the eight-ball tomorrow night with a chance to draw even.
"I don't put any stock in that [experience]," Mason said. "It was so long ago and so many things have changed along the way. The experience that I take away from the last couple years is that I've gone through a lot, there's been no playoff games, but a lot of things to help me along the way."
Mason practiced for about an hour yesterday, working on positioning with goaltending coach Jeff Reese before taking shots from the Flyers' AHL call-ups. He said "everything felt fine."
"I'm not in a rhythm right now because I haven't gotten a start," Mason said. "I don't think there's much restricting me, so there should be no problems. It's been a steady progression... I'll be ready."
Matt Read will not receive any supplementary discipline from the NHL for his sneaky, third-period hit to Dan Carcillo's head in Game 3. Heading to the bench for a line change, Read seemed to lift his shoulder and caught Carcillo in the head.
Carcillo immediately fell to the ice, where he stayed until being helped off by a trainer. The play was considerably away from the puck and multiple camera angles showed Read making contact with Carcillo.
Unlike Read, Carcillo has a significant history of 10 suspensions or fines on his resume, which likely didn't help matters.
The Flyers did not practice yesterday. The Rangers returned to New York in between games for practice . . . Former Flyers and members of the team's front office will ring the closing bell at the Nasdaq Stock Market today in Times Square . . . In addition to prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg, the Flyers recalled eight other players from Adirondack to practice with the team for the duration of the playoffs: forwards Brandon Alderson, Nick Cousins, Ben Holmstrom and Petr Straka; defensemen Mark Alt, Oliver Lauridsen and Brandon Manning; goalie Yann Danis. Those call-ups are eligible for the playoffs, should troops be required beyond healthy scratches Erik Gustafsson, Hal Gill and Tye McGinn.
Former Flyers fan favorite Dan Carcillo, throwing the city that once welcomed him with open arms under the bus after he was flipped off and booed by fans when he scored Tuesday to ice Game 3 for New York: "Nothing surprises me about this city and the way people act."