Flyers’ Mason could start tonight vs. Coyotes

Steve Mason could make his first start since Dec. 18 tonight when the Philadelphia Flyers continue their eight-game road trip in Arizona.

Mason tweaked his back during practice on Dec. 19 and has been out of action since.

“I’m not unsure that he can play,” Flyers’ coach Craig Berube told on Sunday. “To me, it’s about practice time and that kind of stuff. That’s all. He feels good. There’s a good chance he could be in.”

Mason, 26, is 6-10-5 this season with a 2.49 GAA, .921 save percentage.

“Today was a full-fledged practice and it felt great,” Mason said following Sunday’s practice.

“Practice was fine,” he said. “I felt fine going back after [Saturday’s] morning skate. The biggest test was flying here and sitting on the plane for hours and I thought it was going to tighten up a bit, but I felt great this morning. It’s all good news.”

The Flyers are 3-1 on their current eight-game road trip. Ray Emery is 2-1 while rookie Rob Zepp won his lone start.

Mason targets Monday as his return date

Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Steve Mason (back) declared he was “close to 100 percent” after taking shots during Saturday’s practice, per the Philadelphia Inquirer.

If all goes well, he would like to play on Monday against Arizona.

“Today was a really good first step,” Mason said. “I think I got more work in than we had planned for, which was a good sign. I was moving good, and my energy level was pretty good as well.”

The fact that he’s almost ready to return has to be quite the relief for him after the intense pain he experienced when he fell to the ice during a practice on Dec. 20. He was worried that he had suffered a long-term injury, but it was soon determined that his back problem wasn’t serious.

“From when it happened to the way I feel now, I never imagined I could feel this good as quickly as I did,” said the 26-year-old netminder.

Ray Emery is expected to start tonight against the Nashville Predators.

Goalie nods: Lightning get Ben Bishop back

All the latest from the crease…

Ben Bishop returns

Bishop has missed four straight games with a lower-body injury, but he’s projected to be available for the Tampa Bay Lightning’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes tonight. Although 20-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy did a great job in his absence, the Lightning will rely on solid goaltending from Bishop to lead them forward.

The Hurricanes will counter with Cam Ward, whose comeback campaign has been one of the lone bright spots in Carolina’s otherwise abysmal season. He has a 2.44 GAA and .911 save percentage in 23 starts and has only allowed three or more goals in one of his last five games.

With a 10-20-4 record, Carolina is the second-worst team in the NHL while Tampa Bay is locked with Montreal and Detroit in a battle for first place in the Atlantic Division.


Isles at Sabres: Kevin Poulin vs. Jhonas Enroth

Red Wings at Senators: Jimmy Howard vs. Craig Anderson

Devils at Rangers: Cory Schneider vs. Henrik Lundqvist

Bruins at Blue Jackets: Niklas Svedberg is probable; Columbus will go with Curtis McElhinney because Sergei Bobrovsky is sick.

Jets at Wild: Michael Hutchinson vs. Darcy Kuemper

Capitals at Penguins: Braden Holtby’s in for Washington while Marc-Andre Fleury will probably start for Pittsburgh.

Stars at Blues: Kari Lehtonen vs. Jake Allen

Flyers at Preds: Ray Emery for Philadelphia, but there’s no word on Nashville’s goaltender.

Ducks at Coyotes: It’s not clear who will start for Anaheim, but Devan Dubnyk will get the nod for Arizona.

Hawks at Avs: Chicago hasn’t named its starter, but Calvin Pickard is projected to get the nod for Colorado.

Oilers at Flames: While there’s no word from the Oilers, Calgary will go with Jonas Hiller.

Sharks at Kings: Antti Niemi will start for San Jose; Jonathan Quick is probable for Los Angeles.

Goalie nods: Varlamov returns after six-game absence

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All the latest from the blue paint…

Varly’s back

Semyon Varlamov will play for the first time since Dec. 5 when the Avs take on the Blues in Colorado tonight.

Varlamov, last year’s Vezina runner up, has been out for the last two weeks with a re-aggravated groin injury. Rookie Calvin Pickard has performed extremely well in Varlamov’s absence — going 3-0-2 over his last five games with a .952 save percentage — and, correspondingly, Colorado has inched up the standings and now sits just nine points back of Los Angeles for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.

On the year, Varlamov’s 4-6-5 with a 3.21 GAA and .909 save percentage. He’ll be going up against Jake Allen in the Blues net.


Preds at Bruins: Tuukka Rask likely for Boston, no word on a Nashville starter.

Leafs at Stars: Jonathan Bernier for Toronto, Kari Lehtonen likely for Dallas.

Flyers at Wild: Ray Emery vs. Niklas Backstrom

Caps at Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist for New York, no word on a Washington starter.

Habs at Isles: Carey Price vs. Chad Johnson

‘Canes at Devils: Anton Khudobin vs. Cory Schneider

Sabres at Red Wings: Michal Neuvirth vs. Petr Mrazek

Pens at Bolts: Andrei Vasilevskiy likely for Tampa Bay, no word on a Pittsburgh starter.

Coyotes at Oilers: Devan Dubnyk vs. Ben Scrivens

Jets at ‘Hawks: Michael Hutchinson vs. Corey Crawford.

Mason’s back injury not serious, will join Flyers on trip

Things are starting to look up for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Winners in four of their last six, the Flyers announced Tuesday that Steve Mason’s back injury wasn’t “that serious” — per GM Ron Hextall — and that Mason would join the team in Nashville following the holiday break.

Mason, who tweaked his back during practice late last week, has missed the club’s last two games — a 7-4 win over Toronto and a 4-3 win over Winnipeg — and will miss his third tonight in Minnesota.

Philadelphia, currently in the midst of an eight-game road swing, will get Mason back in time for Saturday’s game in Nashville, but the No. 1 netminder won’t play. Instead, it’ll be one of either Ray Emery or Robb Zepp, the latter of whom captured his first-ever NHL win against the Jets on Sunday at the ripe ol’ age of 33.

Looking ahead, there’s a decent chance Mason will return to action next Monday when the Flyers take on the Coyotes in Arizona. If not then, he could get back in on Wednesday (the 31st) in Colorado.