Since arriving with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2013, Steve Mason has been on an upward climb — which makes his absence in the team’s season home opener sting just a bit.
The former third round draft selection was dealt from the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Flyers for Mike Leighton and a 2015 third round draft selection following seasons of struggling in Columbus; with back-to-back campaigns that saw the netminder record .901 SV% on the year and two subsequent years of .894 and .899 SV% respectively, the Blue Jackets turned to Russian netminder Sergei Bobrovsky to fill the role of starter. The Metropolitan Division club never looked back — but Philadelphia earned themselves a starter in the situation as well, with Mason’s numbers improving year after year following his trade.
This season, Mason’s numbers have started out less than stellar — but the club itself has failed to perform up to expectations altogether. A regular season opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning put Philadelphia on the board points-wise with a 3-2 overtime loss, but Philadelphia’s second game was a 7-1 thrashing at the hands of the surging Florida Panthers.
A game at home would have been the perfect place for Mason to take that 7-1 loss (which saw the former London Knights netminder pulled from the game after allowing four goals on seven shots just six minutes into the contest). The team announced that he’s missing their home opener, though; he’s headed home for at least the day for a serious family issue. The team’s stance on the matter is one that urges fans to leave the netminder alone:
The Steve Mason family issue seems serious. Hextall begged to respect his privacy. Not sure if he'll be back for Wednesday
— Jeff Neiburg (@Jeff_Neiburg) October 12, 2015
In his place, backup Michal Neuvirth will get his first start with the Metropolitan Division club.
Neuvirth was an intriguing pick-up for the Flyers over the summer, when the club opted to move away from last year’s backup, Ray Emery. Drafted in the second round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by the Washington Capitals, Neuvirth is coming off a season split between the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Islanders; he’ll be looking to improve upon more than just his numbers with the two Eastern Conference clubs from last year, though. Neuvirth will want to distance himself from his own performance against Florida Saturday night, which saw the 27 year old Czech native allow three goals of his own on just 22 shots against.
Neuvirth and the Flyers will face off against the Panthers for the second time in just three days when they host the conference rivals at the Wells Fargo Centre tonight. Per the Flyers, the team is opting to use an emergency backup instead of recalling a goaltender from the AHL:
Justin Musciano is dressing for skate we're told. He has been emergency guy in the past
— Tim Panaccio (@tpanotchCSN) October 12, 2015
Musciano, a 31-year old netminder from Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, played Division III hockey for Johnson and Wales University in both the 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 seasons.