VOORHEES, N.J. -- In the back of his mind, Ray Emery knew there was a chance he would be in net for the playoffs.
His suspicions were confirmed Wednesday, when Flyers coach Craig Berube announced that Emery would start Game 1 of the team's first-round series against the New York Rangers Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
Steve Mason will not make the trip to New York. He remains day to day with an upper-body injury. Berube called the decision "precautionary."
“He’s out,” Berube said. "He’s not 100 percent. I said if he weren’t 100 percent, he would not play."
Mason was injured Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, didn't play in that game's third period and didn’t suit up for Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Carolina Hurricanes. He practiced for just 15 minutes Tuesday, and wasn’t even present at Skate Zone for Wednesday's session.
Berube said only that Mason "didn't feel good." There's no way to know yet whether Mason could return for Game 2 Sunday in New York, he said.
“It’s part of the game sometimes," Berube said. "Things happen. We have other people. We’re a team. That doesn’t change."
The Flyers’ playoff hopes now rest on the shoulders of Emery, who has appeared in 36 playoff games in his career with the Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks. He won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks last year, but didn't get into any of the team's postseason games. He has a 20-15 playoff record. Mason, by contrast, has never won a playoff game. He's 0-4.
"I take everything as a learning experience," Emery said. "You learn from successes, you learn from failures as well. I’ve had a lot of both. I get excited to play in these situations. Especially playoffs, especially in a group like this."
Emery said nothing will change about his preparation. He admitted, however, that he took a little extra care of himself in recent days after Mason was injured. As a veteran, he knows to expect the unexpected. Twice before in his career he's been given starts in key games he wasn't expecting: with the Senators in place of Dominik Hasek and with the Ducks after Jonas Hiller was hurt.
“You’re always trying to be prepared, trying to stay healthy and ready and fill in when needed, which was mainly my goal this year,” Emery said. “But … I’m excited about it. I feel like I can do well.”
Cal Heeter, who played his first NHL game Sunday against the Hurricanes, will serve as backup goaltender while Mason is out. Yann Danis -- who, unlike Heeter, has NHL experience -- is out for the season with a knee injury and is therefore unavailable as call-up from Adirondack.
Emery is 7-2-0 lifetime against the Rangers, with a 1.87 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. This season, however, he struggled in the sole game he played in New York, a 4-1 loss on Jan. 12.
“It wasn’t the best game for the boys and myself,” he said. “They come out fast, they came out fast up there. Like I said, you take the negatives and positives out of things. You’ve got to be aware, but I’m not too worried about that.”
As they've said all season, Emery's teammates agree they are just as confident in him as they are in Mason. While things might change a bit for the defense -- Mason is better at handling the puck, for instance -- the changes are small. The Flyers' game plan is the same.
"Mase or Razor, I think we have a lot of confidence in them," Giroux said. "They’ve played some big games for us this year. Obviously, Razor has some experience in the playoffs. He’s won a Cup. For him to bring that experience, it’s good."
Though Mason didn't travel to New York Wednesday with the rest of the team, he could in theory join them later this week. Or not. But whatever happens, Berube said, he's certain the Flyers can deal with it.
"Things happen," Berube said. "Good teams find a way to get it done."