Steve Mason wouldn't spill the beans, but Flyers coach Craig Berube finally conceded what everybody expected.
Berube said after practice Thursday at the Skate Zone that Mason would indeed be the Flyers' starting goalie when they meet the New York Rangers in Game 4 Friday at the Wells Fargo Center.
The Flyers trail, two games to one, in this opening Stanley Cup playoff series.
Mason will get his first start since suffering an upper-body injury during the Flyers' next-to-last game of the regular season, April 12 at Pittsburgh.
Mason wouldn't confirm the news Thursday after practice, but Berube did shortly after.
Berube, not known for announcing lineup changes in advance, asked reporters, "You couldn't figure this out?"
The only thing left to figure out was whether Berube was going to announce it a day early.
"He is ready to go," Berube said.
Things didn't look so bright earlier in the week.
On Monday, Mason said he wouldn't be available for Game 3 the next night.
It turned out that on Tuesday he did get cleared to play and was the backup goalie. Mason relieved Ray Emery, playing 7 minutes, 15 seconds in the Flyers' 4-1 loss to the visiting Rangers.
For his part, Mason spoke as confidently Thursday as he has since the injury.
"I felt good today," Mason said. "This is the second day in a row, third day, really, where there are no issues on the ice, and it is a good feeling."
When asked if he was pain-free, Mason simply answered: "Yes."
The Flyers players have maintained that they were comfortable with either Mason or Emery in net. Still, the Flyers are hoping to get a boost from Mason's return.
"We find ourselves down 2-1, and Mase feels great, and we have to build on that," winger Scott Hartnell said.
After a strong Game 2, Emery had a subpar effort Tuesday. Mason came in late in the third period.
"At that point of time I had been on the bench [nearly] 55 minutes, and it was tough to get a real feel, but it was nice to get back a little bit in that atmosphere," Mason said.
This will be Mason's first playoff start since April 23, 2009, with Columbus. That season he won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year. During the playoffs Mason went 0-4 with a 4.27 goals-against average and an .878 save percentage as the Blue Jackets were swept by Detroit.
That experience made him realize the difference between the regular season and postseason. He said he benefited from so many close games this year down the stretch with the Flyers.
"There is extra pressure because it is playoff time, but you look at our season, for the last 11/2 months we were in a playoff-type atmosphere. They were must wins," said Mason, who was 33-18-7 with a 2.50 GAA and .917 save percentage this season.
"Toward the end of practice I really felt sharp, especially in the power-play stuff," Mason said. "I was moving well, seeing the puck through screens, and if that is a gauge for myself it felt pretty good."