Steve Mason

Flyers overhaul goaltending on a budget


The Philadelphia Flyers signed Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million deal in the hopes that he’d end their goaltending issues. It didn’t work and after using a compliance buyout on that contract, the Flyers will enter the 2013-14 campaign with two promising and far cheaper options between the pipes.

Ray Emery and Steve Mason aren’t safe bets — they wouldn’t cost just over $3 million combined for next season if they were — but Philadelphia is hoping at least one of them works out. That’s not an unreasonable expectation.

Emery certainly seems worthy of a shot at the number one gig. The off-ice issues of his younger days appear to be a thing of a past. The 30-year-old has been through a lot, including avascular necrosis of the hip that threatened to end his career.

Instead he returned and has been working towards reasserting himself as a starting goaltender. He took a big step in that direction by posting a 1.94 GAA and .922 save percentage in 21 games with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Meanwhile, Mason is an enigma. He’s the man that led the Columbus Blue Jackets to their only playoff berth when he had a 2.29 GAA and .916 save percentage in 61 games as a rookie in 2008-09. That earned him the Calder Trophy, but his career has been a disaster ever since.

Brief moments of hope have been drowned out by rough stretches until the Blue Jackets finally dealt him to the Philadelphia Flyers for a 2015 third-round pick and Michael Leighton. The change of scenery seemed to suit Mason, who recorded a 1.90 GAA and .944 save percentage in his final seven appearances of 2013.

The question now is if Mason has finally been able to put his years of struggles behind him or if his time with Philadelphia merely coincided with another brief hot streak that won’t be sustained.

Both goaltenders have a lot to prove and plenty of personal motivation given their one-year deals. Both of them have been starters in the past and this is their opportunity to prove they deserve that position going forward.

Sabres place Lehner on IR; Recall Lieuwen

Connor Brown, Robin Lehner
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They’re just one game into their regular season, but the Buffalo Sabres have already had to shift things around in their crease.

The Sabres announced that they have placed starting goaltender Robin Lehner on injured reserve after he was knocked out of Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury.

In a corresponding move, the club has recalled Nathan Lieuwen from their AHL affiliate in Rochester.

The 24-year-old didn’t play in the NHL last season, but he did have a 1-4-0 record with a 2.98 goals-against-average and a .906 save percentage in seven games during the 2013-14 season.

Lieuwen was Buffalo’s sixth round pick, 167th overall, in the 2011 draft.

The Sabres also announced that they have loaned defenseman Jake McCabe and goaltender Linus Ullmark to the Rochester Americans (AHL).

McCabe was a healthy scratch in Thursday’s game against Ottawa, while Ullmark is being activated off I.R. after having double hip surgery during the off-season.



Chara ‘doubtful’ for game against rival Canadiens

Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara
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It looks like the Boston Bruins will be without their captain again on Saturday night.

Head coach Claude Julien told members of the media that Zdeno Chara is considered doubtful for tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.

Chara suffered an upper-body injury during the preseason and he’s already been forced to miss Boston’s season opening loss to the Jets.

Per CSN, Chara says he’s improving but he won’t return to the lineup until he’s as close to 100 percent as possible.

“Every area of the injury is improving,” said Chara. “Hopefully it’s not long before I’m free of any kind of discomfort. That’s what we’re doing right now…we’re being patient. For sure you don’t want to come back, and be half of what you are…and basically hurting yourself and the team. And you’re putting yourself in a position where you could be missing more time. At this time of the season, I think it’s important to be as close as you can be to 100 percent.”

Based on the number of defensive mistakes they committed on Thursday, the Bruins need Chara back as soon as possible: