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Flyers vs. Maple Leafs preview: 8 game road trip begins without Steve Mason

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The Flyers take on the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight, but who cares about that, life is a nightmare and Steve Mason’s back is broken and also he’s dead.

it's the circle of life/and it moves us all/through despair and hope/through faith and love/till we find our place/on the path unwinding/in the circle/the circle of life
it's the circle of life/and it moves us all/through despair and hope/through faith and love/till we find our place/on the path unwinding/in the circle/the circle of life
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Break out those rosaries and light that incense because Steve Mason is gone and that means the Flyers are going to need all the positive thinking and prayer you can devote to them tonight.

In the meantime, hit the panic button.

That's right, the big bright red one that you keep under glass specifically for situations like this. It's drastic. Super drastic. Fact of the matter is that Steve Mason probably won't ever play another game ever in his entire life ever.

Steve Mason broke his back or something at practice yesterday. Or maybe it's just back spasms and he'll only be out a couple of games. No one can be sure, but it's definitely somewhere between those two. According to Randy Miller, Resident Old Man Vinny Lecavalier said that his back spasms usually lasted no less than 72 hours. That's helpful.

Of course, the Flyers have recalled Rob Zepp from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. He's been having a pretty good year for the Phantoms, posting a .918 save percentage in just over 1000 minutes played.  Considering that for all of Ray Emery's heart, he has a distinct lack of hips, one would hope that he doesn't start both back to back games this weekend. That would mean that Zepp could get his first NHL start on Sunday. It's a pretty insane story for Zepp, considering he was first drafted all the way back in 1999 by the Atlanta Thrashers. Despite the fact that it's come at the loss of Steve Mason, it's cool that he could get the chance. Very feel-good. Disney should make a movie about this.

Anyhow, enough about goaltenders. On to the Leafs.

Remember how they're loltastic? They're still pretty loltastic, only a little less so now. Generally speaking, their possession numbers have improved since last season which obviously bodes well for them. Their play has been solid and they've been racking up points as of late, minus their last showing (a 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes -- see, pretty loltastic, right?).

Phil Kessel is killing it yet again, surprising no one. He currently ranks ninth in scoring and fifth in goals in the league. Phil Kessel is good at hockey. His most frequent linemates, James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak, are following right behind in team scoring, ranking second and third respectively. And where secondary scoring has been an issue in the past for the Leafs, Nazem Kadri's emerging dominance as a second line center, the welcome addition of Mike Santorelli, and Cody Franson's offensive talents really starting to take hold all mean that it will be significantly harder to shut them down offensively.

Since the start of December, the Leafs have gone 7-2 in those nine games. Their record is good enough for fourth in the Atlantic, a mere point out of second with a game in hand and a measly three points out of first with two games in hand on the Lightning. It's also good enough for sixth in the East. The Leafs are hanging up there with the best teams in the conference, and while that probably isn't saying too terribly much at this juncture, they maybe, possibly, might not be the punchline to the joke anymore.

Or who knows, maybe they are. Maybe they totally, totally are.

I mean, their starting goaltender doesn't know who Nelson Mandela is ... we need this win. Let's go Flyers. Do it for Steve.

Philadelphia Flyers at Toronto Maple Leafs

7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT
Air Canada Centre | Toronto, Ont., Canada

In Philly: CSN Philly, 97.5 The Fanatic
In Canada: CBC
Everywhere else: NHL Center Ice, NHL GameCenter Live