WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Winnipeg goalie Steve Mason doesn't know if he'll start Thursday against his ex-Flyers teammates. But he does know he's downplaying the matchup.
"Honestly, I just treat it like another game," he told the Winnipeg Sun. "Whether I'm playing or not, I'm not sure. But I'm happy here in Winnipeg."
Mason, who signed a two-year deal with an annual $4.1 million salary-cap hit in the offseason, said the Flyers saved his career, which had bottomed out in Columbus.
"I feel very fortunate to have been part of that organization for five years," Mason said. "I made a lot of friends there. I enjoyed playing in front of a passionate fan base, just an overall great sports city. And I'm proud to have been a Philadelphia Flyer."
Playing in the playoffs for the first time, he said, was one of his highlights.
"Looking back on it, there were a lot of positives. I'm just happy I was able to restart my career there and work with some really talented goalie coaches in Jeff Reese and Kim Dillabaugh. I owe a lot to those two."
Mason, 29, was asked if it was difficult playing in Philadelphia, which has a reputation for being tough on goaltenders.
"I didn't really think much of that," he said. "I just took it as a fresh opportunity and a place where you get to play in front of a sold-out building with passionate fans. For me, that was fun. Looking back on it, I was fortunate to have it."
He said he wanted to return to the Flyers, but they "wanted to go in a different direction. … In the summer, there were no discussions, so you move on. I'm happy to be in Winnipeg."
Mason allowed a total of 16 goals in his first three games with the Jets and became the backup to Connor Hellebuyck, 24, who is 9-1-2 with 2.32 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage. Mason has rebounded and played well in his last three appearances.
Overall, Mason is 1-3-1 with a 3.76 goals-against average and an .892 save percentage.
"I've felt a lot more comfortable in the last couple of starts here. It was a difficult transition," he said. "The first few games didn't go the way I would have liked."
With Hellebuyck "playing the way he is, I haven't been able to get back in the net [often]," Mason said. "I've just got to continue working hard and bide my time. I understand the situation I'm in. Whenever I do get into the net, I want to make the most of it."
Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said he hasn't decided which goalie will start Thursday, but he praised Mason's work ethic and said he has a "real good handle on where he's at. He doesn't need his hand held."
Flyers rookie Nolan Patrick, who has missed the last nine games with a concussion, hopes to return to the lineup Thursday. Coach Dave Hakstol said he will make a decision after the morning skate. … At practice Wednesday, Andrew MacDonald skated for the first time since he injured his leg Oct. 21 against Edmonton. He will not play Thursday.