Up And Coming

Anaheim,Ca - Rookie Steve Mason is emerging as one of the NHL's top goaltenders, and his recent success has the Columbus Blue Jackets approaching history.

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The Blue Jackets seek to post three consecutive shutouts for the first time in the franchise's existence when they continue their season-high six-game road trip Wednesday night against the Anaheim Ducks.

Oddsmakers from Online Sportsbook Sportsbook.com have made the Ducks –185 money line favorites for Tuesday’s game against the Blues Jackets. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 54% of more than 205 bets for this game have been placed on the Ducks -185.

A third-round pick in 2006, Mason is 11-7-1 with an NHL-leading 1.77 goals-against average in 19 games since being recalled from Syracuse of the AHL on Nov. 4.

Mason has stopped all 44 shots he's faced in leading Columbus (16-16-4) to back-to-back shutouts, 3-0 against visiting Philadelphia on Saturday and 2-0 at Los Angeles on Monday. The Blue Jackets, who ended an 0-6-1 slide on the road, had been blanked in their previous two contests.

"The seven defensemen, plus Mason, we're trying to make ourselves a very hard group to play against back there," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That's the way we're built. They're able to keep the shots to the outside and they're confident that he can stop those outside shots."

Mason has joined Fredrik Norrena (Dec. 2-5, 2006) and Ron Tugnutt (March 14-16, 2001) as Columbus only goalies to post back-to-back shutouts.

"Playing a lot helps because you get into a rhythm. Shutouts are nice, obviously, but what we're looking for is wins right now," said Mason, who's second in the league with four shutouts.

If Mason starts Wednesday, he'll make his first career appearance against an Anaheim offense that is averaging 2.9 goals over its last 10 games.

The Ducks (19-14-4) have been blanked just once this season, 2-0 at league-leading San Jose on Dec. 11, and have won both matchups against the Blue Jackets, most recently 5-3 on the road Dec. 7.

Columbus has shut out Anaheim twice in the all-time series, doing so in consecutive meetings from Feb. 19-March 24, 2003 at the Honda Center, where only six opponents have blanked the Ducks over the previous three seasons.

Anaheim opens a four-game homestand following a 2-2-1 road trip, capped by a 4-3 victory at St. Louis on Sunday that snapped a three-game skid. Scott Niedermayer and Bobby Ryan contributed a goal and an assist apiece for the Ducks.

"We found a way to win one and that's a good sign," coach Randy Carlyle said.

Carlyle's club found success thanks in part to Ryan, who has emerged in the absence of right wing Teemu Selanne. Selanne, tied for the team lead with 14 goals and third with 27 points, is expected to miss up to six weeks with a thigh laceration.

"I'm happy to fill a void, obviously," Ryan, who has two goals and six assists during a five-game point streak, told the Ducks' official Web site. "I've got a few games to make the most of it. For me, it's just move the puck, get open and finish because I know I'm going to get chances."

Ryan has also thrived on the power play, helping the Ducks convert two of four opportunities Sunday to improve to 6-for-20 over the last five games. Opponents, though, are just 3-for-26 with the man advantage against the Blue Jackets in their previous 11 contests.

Columbus is 0-2-1 in its last three visits to Anaheim. Mason has two shutouts on the road, where he is just 2-4-1 despite boasting a 1.57 GAA.

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Posted: 12/31/08 12:25AM ET


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