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Pressure-packed start for Mason

Steve Mason will start in goal for the Flyers in Game 4, his first start since he was injured on April 12.

Flyers goalie Steve Mason. (Matt Slocum/AP file)
Flyers goalie Steve Mason. (Matt Slocum/AP file)Read more

STEVE MASON hates the press box - maybe even more so than any other injured or scratched player come playoff time.

In fact, if Mason did not dress for Game 3, he would have asked the coaching staff to watch the game from the glass at the Zamboni entrance of the Wells Fargo Center ice.

Even television would have been better than watching near the unwashed media in the rafters.

"Nothing against you guys," Mason joked. "The game just looks extremely easy from up-top.

"When you're down at ice level, and on the ice, things happen so much quicker. Being up in the press box, you can see open players - whereas if you're on the ice, looking at it head on, you've got guys in front of you that you can't necessarily see through. I actually looked forward to getting back to ice level."

Mason got a taste from ice level on Tuesday night, but just a taste. He stopped all three shots in 7:15 of action to close out Game 3.

It is that brief glimpse, though, that makes Mason dispel the notion that he is just blindly parachuting into this Metropolitan Division semifinal series. Coach Craig Berube confirmed yesterday after practice that Mason will start Game 4 tonight.

Yes, it has been 1,829 days since Mason, now 25, last started a Stanley Cup playoff game (April 23, 2009). But the bigger question is: How he will respond after not starting since April 12?

To say that the Flyers need him tonight, trailing 2-1 in this best-of-seven series with the Rangers, would be an understatement. The Flyers have only ever come back once (2010 vs. Boston) in a series after falling in a 3-1 deficit. Mason will oppose the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist, who amazingly has not played his best game of the series yet.

Mason says he is ready for the challenge. He could tell by the way he wrapped up practice.

"As a goaltender, it's a matter of if you're tracking the puck well off the stick and into your body," Mason said. "Toward the end of practice, I felt really sharp - especially with power-play stuff and seeing the puck through screens. If that's the gauge for myself, then I feel pretty good."

Mason left that game April 12 in the second period after being run over by Pittsburgh's Jayson Megna and concussion-like symptoms ensued, something the Flyers (but never Mason) danced around announcing.

It has been an ordeal, Mason said. He admitted he suffered two previous concussions with Columbus, but whatever ailed him this time was different.

"Parts of it were similar, other parts were entirely new," Mason said. "It was something I've never had to go through in its entirety and hopefully it's something I'll never have to go through again.

"You don't want to be sitting on the sidelines come playoff time. If you can be something that helps the team win a hockey game, that's a good feeling - but I think everybody realizes that there's still a lot of hockey to be played. I don't think anyone in here is too worried."

Mason and goaltending coach Jeff Reese believe the Rangers actually will throw a different gameplan at him in Game 4. New York utilized side-to-side passes to make Emery, a slower goaltender, move laterally. Against Mason, the Rangers might be more apt to shoot.

"Every player looks at video, I do a lot of specific stuff with [Reese] about how the Rangers are presenting themselves throughout the whole series," Mason said. "Every goaltender plays a different way, so they were attacking Razor in certain ways that [Reese] thinks they might do differently to myself.

"Everything happens so quickly during a game, you just have to be ready for anything."

Berube said he is confident in Mason because "he's come up big all year for us," even though his goaltender has never played with a lead in a playoff game.

Mason readily admits tonight will be an entirely different setting than his introduction to the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2009, this regular season in a market that is a goaltending pressure-cooker, or even Game 3. He called tonight "an entirely new thing for me."

His view tonight will be a lot more difficult than when he watched from the Chase Bridge high atop Madison Square Garden for Game 2.

"There is extra pressure because it's playoff time," Mason said. "I don't prepare myself any differently from the first start of the season to the last start. I treat every game the same - and I think that's a way of staying even-keeled, giving yourself no reason to panic."