By Mary Cunningham
The Flyers’ 2014-15 season has seen many more lows than ups, and tonight’s game at home against the Winnipeg Jets represents a chance for a real up.
With their goaltender back and two straight victories to begin a five-game home stretch, positives are creeping in for the Flyers.
The Flyers (20-22-7) returned from the All-Star break with Tuesday’s 4-3 shootout win over Arizona, and Steve Mason played the majority of the game after Ray Emery allowed two goals on the first four shots he faced.
Mason had missed the past six games due to a right knee injury and also battled the flu over the weekend.
“The body felt fine, it was just a matter of getting timing back in the game,” Mason said.
During his time away, the Flyers’ save percentage of .886 ranked 25th and was worse than any team’s season total.
“I think he probably wasn’t as sharp as he would like to be, but he competed hard and ended up winning the game,” coach Craig Berube said.
He was sharp enough to stop 22 of 23 shots and all three in the shootout, giving him a 3-0-0 mark and 1.25 goals-against average in his last four games. Mason has been even better against the Jets franchise with a 0.91 GAA and 3-0-1 record in five career games.
Philly has shown some consistency with at least three goals per game in a 3-1-0 stretch, and the power play has been a big part of it. The Flyers have gone 5 of 14 in games with at least one power-play goal in each.
Wayne Simmonds (photo above) got it against the Coyotes to snap an eight-game scoring drought, during which he was limited to two assists.
“We moved the puck really well during the power play,” Simmonds said.
R.J. Umberger and Michael Del Zotto also scored. Del Zotto, Mark Streit, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek have four-game point streaks.
Voracek had one of his two multigoal games this season in a 4-3 overtime win at Winnipeg on Dec. 21, part of the Flyers’ 5-1-1 stretch against the Jets (26-15-8).
Winnipeg didn’t return from the break in positive fashion, falling 5-3 in Pittsburgh on Tuesday to snap a five-game winning streak. The Jets are 6-2-2 on the road against the Eastern Conference.
“It was a really uncomfortable game for our team,” forward Bryan Little told the club’s official website. “We’ve got to be better next game. We knew going in it was going to look a little ugly early on. There was going to be some rust on both sides, but they looked sharper from the start and really outplayed us in the first.”
Forward Chris Thorburn had a goal and an assist, giving him three goals in four games after scoring twice in his first 44.
The Jets went without a power-play opportunity. Among the league leaders with 163 on the season, they’ve had only 14 in their last six games.
Ondrej Pavelec allowed four goals for the fifth time in seven games to give him a 2-3-2 record and 3.36 GAA in that span. He took the loss against the Flyers last month and is 7-4-2 with a 3.21 GAA lifetime in the series.
Michael Hutchinson has won four straight starts with a 1.33 GAA in the last three. He’s never faced Philadelphia but is 7-0-1 with a 1.20 GAA against the East this season, and may get the start in this one.