Steve Mason (hand) Practices, But Status for Sunday Against Ducks Remains Unknown

ANAHEIM - The Flyers have been in a steep descent since right before the holiday break.

Their vaunted power play is struggling just to get a shot or two on net, let alone score goals.

Their general manager is worried they would give away the 20 points they collected during a 10-game winning streak and so far, they have chucked away nine of a possible 12 in rapid succession.
 
What else could possible go wrong for Dave Hakstol and the Flyers?

How about losing their starting goalie to a freak accident?
 
That is the latest misery for Hakstol and Ron Hextall following Friday's 2-0 shutout loss to the San Jose Sharks.

Steve Mason, who carried the team through eight of the 10 wins during the streak and had started 20 of their last 22 games, bruised his left hand and possible his wrist late in the first period Friday when the butt end of Joe Thornton's stick got wedged in Mason's stick hand glove on a move around the net from behind.
 
Mason took full practice Saturday in Anaheim, but said he wanted to see how he felt Sunday morning before committing to play against the Ducks.

So Mason joins veteran backup Michal Neuvirth on the injured squad, but it's not all gloom and doom for the Flyers.
 
Fortunately, they have rookie Anthony Stolarz, who has been more or less excellent in four appearances for the club. Stolarz gave up just one goal on 22 shots over 40 minutes in the loss in San Jose.
 
The Flyers are in the midst of a crisis given how close teams behind them have crept up during this 1-4-1 skid while Columbus pulls away and both Pittsburgh and the Rangers - among others - are distancing themselves from the Flyers in the standings. The Flyers are 10 points behind the Blue Jackets, while Carolina is only five points behind them now. They still hold the second wild card spot, but it's a slippery grasp.
 
This is where you find out something about your club, and there's no doubt Stolarz covets this chance to start in net on New Year's Day against the Anaheim Ducks, should Mason not be ready to play. He's already shown during all these weeks while Neuvirth is mending his left knee injury that he's a capable NHL goaltender.
 
Hextall is loaded with goalie talent in the minors and junior right now, and Stolarz has already given notice he should be here as the backup next season given the oft-injured Neuvirth is a free agent.

Even if Mason's injury is stretched past Sunday into the Flyers' next homestand, there is no reason to panic because Stolarz has demonstrated he's ready at a moment's notice.
 
The only assistance he requires is some goal scoring, which has suddenly become a huge issue. During this six-game tailspin, the Flyers have scored just eight goals - barely a tad more than one a game, which isn't enough to win unless you're getting shutouts every night.
 
This should be an easy call for Hakstol. Tell Mason to rest and play Stolarz against the Ducks.

Then again, it should have been an easy call for Hakstol not to bench Travis Konecny against a team better than the Flyers in a game where they needed points Friday night in San Jose.

Nothing is coming easy for the Flyers right now, including simple decisions.

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