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November 14, 2016

As Stolarz will make NHL debut, Mason set to have heavy workload

Flyers NHL

In the case of 22-year-old Flyers netminder Anthony Stolarz, Steve Mason said he’s currently seeing a more mature player than in past years. That’s important, because although Mason broke into the NHL at the age of 20, his career started to turn around when he was traded to Philly at 24.

So even if their career trajectories aren’t exactly the same, Mason knows better than anyone that at his position, sometimes these things just take some time, a little patience.

“It’s well documented goaltenders take a little bit longer to develop,” Mason said. “It’s such a unique position, there’s so many tools that go into it, the mental aspect. Just watching him through training camp and then even in our short goalie warmup here today, he’s sharper with his pushes, he’s positionally in the right spot.”

Both taller goaltenders, Mason has seen Stolarz tighten up his technique.

“He’s got such a big frame that when I think when he was a little younger, he didn’t know how to utilize it,” he said. “That’s a lot of big moving parts to control and get in the right spot. I’m impressed with him.”

As expected, the Flyers called up Stolarz from Lehigh Valley after Michal Neuvirth’s injury. The New Jersey native and 2012 second-round pick was on the ice Monday working out at Skate Zone with the rest of the team, who will continue their homestand tomorrow night against the Ottawa Senators.

This isn’t the first time Stolarz has been called up to the big club, far from it. But always in the past, it was in an emergency role. This time is different, because with Neuvirth out four to six weeks, Stolarz is expected to make his debut at some point of the upcoming stretch of games.

“It’s a great opportunity for Anthony to continue what he’s done over the past year and couple months here down in the American Hockey League,” Dave Hakstol said. “He’s proven that he’s ready to be here.”

Stolarz was playing well (6-2-0 record, 2.39 goals-against average,.927 save percentage) for a competitive Lehigh Valley team. He’s stepping into a Flyers goaltending situation that frankly hasn’t been acceptable so far this year, as the team sits last in the NHL with a .867 save percentage.

Stolarz is aware of the significant strides he has made over the past year, and his family is on high alert to make the 45-minute drive to Philly for his first game (if it is in fact at home).

“I want to get that next test,” Stolarz said. “I want to get a shot in the NHL and see what it’s all about.”

The Stolarz addition is newsworthy, but the most prominent figure in the Neuvirth injury storyline is Mason. Early in the season, Hakstol has rotated goaltenders frequently (too frequently, in the eyes of some) to see if one of them could get into a rhythm. That hasn’t happened, but with Neuvirth out for at least a month, the task of keeping the Flyers afloat falls on Mason.

“There’s points of my career that I’ve played a lot of hockey, towards the end of last season was a perfect example. I think most goalies look forward to that.”

You don’t have to look too far in the past for a similar scenario, one in which Mason was decidedly up to the task. Neuvirth went down with a lower-body injury last March, and Mason played a tremendous 17 games in 35 days (10-4-3 record, .924 SV%) down the stretch as the Flyers eked into the playoffs.

“There’s points of my career that I’ve played a lot of hockey, towards the end of last season was a perfect example,” Mason said. “I think most goalies look forward to that.”

Mason told CSN Philly on Saturday that he’s “tired of being embarrassed,” after rebounding from a dismal performance on Friday (six goals on 23 shots) in relief of Neuvirth. The Flyers hope he is too, because even if Stolarz gets the occasional start, Mason the clear-cut top goaltender for the next month.

Flyers at the Eagles

A group of Flyers took in yesterday’s Eagles game yesterday, and the tailgate provided a couple of pretty good videos. First, here’s a decent effort at the Mannequin Challenge:


And here's Claude Giroux singing the Eagles fight song headed into The Linc, after perhaps a few beverages:


Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

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