COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Not so long ago Steve Mason and Sergei Bobrovsky were considered two of the brightest young goaltending stars in the NHL.
Now the 24-year-olds are vying for playing time — and maybe a jump start to their careers — with the rebuilding Columbus Blue Jackets.
"Especially in a shortened season, the team is going to rely on two guys because the schedule is going to be so compact," said Mason, who along with Bobrovsky is prepping for Saturday night's opener of the 48-game schedule against Nashville on Saturday. "We're going to need both of us playing well in a season like this. Competition is going to be a good thing."
Coach Todd Richards isn't saying who will start against the Predators. He just knows he needs both of them.
"There's competition all over at every position — and goaltending is no different," he said. "Without question it's a great motivator."
Motivation is one thing that both goalies have been accused of lacking at times.
Mason won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 2008-09, the only season the Blue Jackets have made the playoffs in their 12 years. Bobrovsky once was considered the goalie of the future for the Philadelphia Flyers after going 28-13-8 just two years ago with a 2.59 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage. But Bobrovsky's postseason play raised questions in Philadelphia, and in 2011, the Flyers acquired former All-Star Ilya Bryzgalov.
With a combination of goalies, including Bobrovsky, the Flyers were eliminated in the second round the past two seasons. Not long after Philadelphia's ouster to New Jersey last year in five games, Bobrovsky ended up in Columbus for the meager price of a second-round and two fourth-round picks in the 2013 draft.
"This is a big opportunity for me. It is in my hands," Bobrovsky said through a translator. "I have the chance to be a No. 1 goaltender, which is what I want."
Both must be a lot better than they were a year ago if they hope to convince anyone that they've regained the magic touch they once seemed to have. Their numbers were eerily similar last season as both stumbled through disappointing years.
Mason, who catches right-handed, had a 16-26-3 record, with a 3.39 goals-against and an .894 percentage. Bobrovsky finished 14-10-2, with a 3.02 and an.899.
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