At a glance: The New York Rangers hold a 2-1 first-round playoff series lead but the Philadelphia Flyers have the chance to tie things up Friday on home ice at Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers had backup goalie Ray Emery in net for the first three games, but they get their regular starter back in Steve Mason for Game 4.
The 25-year-old will be looking to erase some otherwise unpleasant playoff memories. His previous trip to the postseason ended with his Columbus Blue Jackets being swept by the Detroit Red Wings in 2009, his rookie season.
Mason made a brief appearance in Tuesday’s Game 3, relieving Emery in the third period with the game already out of reach, and he received limited work. He faced only three shots in more than seven minutes of play, his only action in almost two weeks since suffering an upper-body injury on April 12 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
While Mason's return will likely provide a boost, the Flyers need no extra motivation.
"We're desperate. We want to win tonight. We have to win tonight," forward Wayne Simmonds said.
Bold statement: OK, it wasn’t quite the Mark Messier-level of dramatic promises, but Flyers captain Claude Giroux still raised some eyebrows with his guarantee that Philly would win Game 4 and take the series back to New York. Giroux proclaimed his confidence in the club following the team’s 4-1 loss in Game 3, in which he registered his first shot on goal of the series.
Coming around: Veteran forward Martin St. Louis struggled to satisfy expectations as his scoring woes persisted in the five weeks of the regular season following his trade deadline-day acquisition, but his game has improved since the playoffs began. The 38-year-old winger leads the Rangers in scoring with two goals and five points through three games.
Making moves: Flyers coach Craig Berube indicated that his team will be making some changes to the power play, which has been rendered largely ineffective this series. Though the numbers are not abysmal -- Philly is 2-for-9 on the power play -- Berube has been disappointed with the lack of puck movement and the team’s inability to get shots through. At least some of that is a testament to the Rangers’ superb penalty-killing efforts, but he’ll be looking to make some adjustments to give the Flyers an edge on Friday.
Whistle to whistle: Keeping emotions in check has been stressed repeatedly throughout the series for the Rangers, who were one of the most disciplined teams in the regular season. That obviously becomes a lot tougher during a physical, chippy series against one of the team’s hated rivals, but the Rangers are playing with fire by giving the Flyers too many chances on the man-advantage. With offensive weapons like Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Scott Hartnell and Simmonds, the Rangers have to limit their time in the box.