COLUMBUS - Both times the Flyers played the Blue Jackets in Columbus last season, Ray Emery got the start in net for Philadelphia. The teams didn't meet at all during the locket-shortened 2012-13 campaign.
So it wasn't until last night, 20 months after he was dealt to the orange and black, when Steve Mason made his first start at Nationwide Arena as an opponent. It was in Columbus where he began his NHL career, where he helped the franchise to its first playoff berth and won the Calder Trophy, and where he fell out of favor over the three seasons that followed.
The Flyers' 26-year-old goaltender entered last night's game at his former home arena in great form. His 37 stops in 38 shots helped the team steal a much-needed, 2-1 road win against the Kings on Saturday, snapping a six-game losing skid. In the eight games before last night's, Mason's goals-against average stood at 2.13.
The starting nod was his fourth straight. He made 21 saves in the Flyers' 3-2 loss in overtime.
"Obviously, he's having a fantastic season," said Jake Voracek, another of the three former Blue Jackets on the Flyers' roster, the other being R.J. Umberger. "Since [Mason] got traded to Philly, he's been one of our top players."
Mason's record this season, 5-9-3 in 18 starts entering last night, is deceiving.
"He's played well. We haven't played that well in front of him at times and that's been the problem," Flyers coach Craig Berube said this week. "In November, he had real good stats, if you look at it, but we didn't get the wins for him, whether we didn't score [or] whether we didn't defend well enough."
Mason this week downplayed the significance of his first start back in Columbus. He would have probably considered it more if he hadn't already played against the Blue Jackets four times at the Wells Fargo Center over the last two seasons. In the two meetings in South Philadelphia last month, Mason and the Flyers split with Scott Hartnell & Co.
"I played 4 1/2 years here," Mason told the Flyers' website on Monday, "but I've made my home in Philly now, so this is just another game on the schedule."
Vincent Lecavalier spent yet another game watching from the press box last night, a healthy scratch for the fourth consecutive contest during this five-game road trip.
Before the Dec. 2 game at San Jose, Lecavalier, in only the second year of his 5-year, $22.5-million contract, had never sat as a healthy scratch in the first 15-plus seasons of his illustrious career. He has two goals, four assists and is a minus-4 in 16 games.
It sounds as if it will take an injury or another forward playing himself out of the lineup for the Flyers' embattled, 34-year-old center-turned-right wing to find himself back on the ice.
"Well, right now I just like the way the four lines are rolling and the way that we're playing the game right now," Berube said before last night's game. "So I don't see a reason to change the lines right now. But it's [a] game-to-game [decision]."
As was the case Saturday in Los Angeles, defensemen Luke Schenn and Carlo Colaiacovo last night joined Lecavalier as healthy scratches. It was the second straight scratch for Schenn, the 10th for Colaiacovo, signed Oct. 30 amid a deluge of injuries to now-healthy Flyers defensemen.
The Ducks yesterday signed former Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to a contract for the rest of the season. The Los Angeles Times reported the deal is for $2.88 million. Bryzgalov, who started his NHL career with Anaheim, was expected to report to the team's AHL affiliate in Norfolk, Va. . . . Jake Voracek and Claude Giroux were the 14th- and 25th-most vote-getters among forwards in the latest tally of fan votes for the 2015 NHL All-Star Game here in Columbus on Jan. 25. Mark Streit was 22nd among defensemen.