VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Flyers might be stepping into the great unknown.
Ray Emery has been missing from action since the San Jose Sharks game on Feb. 27. He can’t practice, he can’t play in games. He missed another session on Friday.
Sources say he has a groin pull.
Both general manager Paul Holmgren and coach Craig Berube dismiss it as nothing significant, but let’s be honest here.
There is nothing insignificant about the Flyers' back-up goalie being injured during a stretch run to the playoffs when the starter needs some occasional rest.
Remember, the Flyers did not seek another goalie at the trade deadline. They didn’t feel Emery’s injury warranted concern.
But he has not been available for duty for three games and that raises a red flag.
Phantoms prospect Cal Heeter is jockeying back and forth on the roster from the Phantoms. Heeter said Wednesday he would love to get a shot in net.
The issue here is whether the 25-year-old Heeter is capable of being the Flyers' backup if somehow Emery’s injury is worse than believed. Also, can he handle the pressure of a stretch run when he hasn’t played a single NHL game?
Heeter’s total AHL experience is 35 games with the Phantoms. And the Flyers may need to rely on this just to give Mason a breather if Emery isn’t available.
Heeter signed as a free agent with the Flyers out of Ohio State in March of 2012, spent some time in Trenton with the ECHL's Titans and the Phantoms last season. Heeter has been welcomed with open arms as a Flyer.
“All the guys are true professionals here,” said Heeter, who like former Flyer Brian Boucher, is an American-born goalie (he's from St. Louis). “Everybody is willing to lend a helping hand, if you need any advice or tips.”
Heeter is chomping at the bit to play. That’s good in a pressure situation.
“It'd be nice if I got a chance to get into a game, but I understand the position they are at right now,” he said. “They’re trying to maintain their position in the playoffs right now.
“That might be more important than developing someone for the future. I might not get a chance to play but if I do, I’ll be ready.”
Heeter’s first practice with the Flyers was Thursday morning and it lasted barely 30 minutes. Prior to this, all he has had is warm-ups.
“It definitely helps,” he said. “You have to get used to quicker movement, quicker shots. Faster grade of plays. It helps you fine tune details in your game and make sure you’re ready to play.”
Heeter said he has not used his play with the Phantoms to gauge how things make go for his career as a Flyer. That is, he wasn’t using his AHL experience as something to lean on for projecting as an NHL goalie.
“You can only control one thing – that’s how you play,” Heeter said. “So I don’t make plans for what might come in the future. I take it day to day, work hard in practice, play as well as I can in games and see where the cards fall at the end of the day.”