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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Flyers make some hay in California

Berube liking team's play heading to San Jose tonight

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SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Even though the Philadelphia Flyers opened their ultra-challenging California trip with a 5-3 defeat in Anaheim on Thursday night, coach Craig Berube saw positives.

The Flyers, who play in San Jose tonight, outshot the powerful Ducks and had a 4-1 edge in power plays. They matched Anaheim's physical style and were hard on the puck.

"We lost, but I really liked our competitiveness," Berube said. "I liked the way we played."

He was even more satisfied with the team's performance Saturday, a hard-fought 2-0 win over the offensively challenged Kings in Los Angeles.

The Kings had a lot more scoring chances -- holding a 35-13 edge in shots -- but the Flyers, for the most part, kept Los Angeles on the perimeter, and the visitors cashed in on the few scoring chances they created. The Flyers set a franchise record for fewest shots in a win.

"The Kings are a big, strong team that plays good defence, so we needed to match that, and the guys did a good job," Berube said.

The Flyers played with discipline, won the special-teams battle and did just enough good things to produce just their second win in seven games, thanks largely to Steve Mason's outstanding goaltending.

Mason went through his first rough patch as a Flyer recently -- he had a 4.56 goals-against average and an .851 save percentage in a six-game stretch -- but he has regained his mojo. It was his second shutout in the last three games.

"He looked sharp," said Berube, referring to Mason's 35-save shutout of a Kings team that is next to last in the NHL in scoring. "I think a lot of that, too, is giving them shots from the outside. That helps. We talked about protecting the centre of the ice more. When a goalie sees shots that are easy to handle and makeable saves, it helps everybody."

In Los Angeles, the Flyers (27-23-6) did a better job clearing bodies in front of Mason than they did in the loss to Anaheim.

Against San Jose (35-15-6), the Flyers will probably get a break: Logan Couture, the Sharks' high-scoring forward, is expected to miss the game with a hand injury.

The Flyers are in a logjam in the Metropolitan Division, where the third-place and seventh-place teams are separated by only two points. The Flyers are fourth in the Metro (the top three make the playoffs) and ninth in the Eastern Conference (the top eight earn playoff berths).

"We've been in a tight spot the entire season, so this is no different for us," Mason said. "Every game is going to be a must-win for us -- I know it's a cliché to say it, but realistically it is -- because if you're not winning, other teams are going past you, and we can't let that happen."

The Sharks, who snapped a three-game losing streak with a 2-1 shootout win over the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, are a staggering 20-3-3 at home.

"This is going to be another test. They have one of the toughest arenas to play in," Mason said. "They have a good atmosphere there and we just have to make sure we're prepared."

-- The Philadelphia Inquirer

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 3, 2014 C2

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