Emery pleased with 'healthy' goalie competition

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Emery pleased with 'healthy' goalie competition

Ray Emery has been through a lot since the last time he suited up for the Flyers.

But it’s last year with the Chicago Blackhawks -- by all means a very successful season -- that might have prepared him best of all for what lies ahead in Philadelphia.

While in Chicago, Emery split netminding duties with Corey Crawford, the goaltender who eventually carried the Blackhawks through the postseason and all the way to the Stanley Cup. Emery not only excelled in net when called upon, but helped support his teammate both in practices and during games.

“I was really rooting for him when he was in the net, and I got a sense when he was rooting for me when I was in the net,” Emery said. “I got a good feeling -- kind of a contagious thing around the team as well, guys want to do well for each other.”

The setup will be similar with his new team. Like in Chicago, Emery wasn’t brought here to be the team’s No. 1 goalie. Instead, he’ll be splitting duties with Steve Mason, the young goaltender the Flyers acquired at least season’s trade deadline.

Just as he did last year, Emery will be competing against his teammate for every start he earns. But instead of looking at it as a negative thing, he knows the goalie battle will push both he and Mason to work even harder. He'll be looking to improve upon his already impressive 1.94 goals-against average and 17-1 record from 2012-13.

“It’s a healthy competition, I guess you could say,” Emery said. “Both guys want to obviously play as much as they can, but I think the team benefits when it’s a situation where guys are helping each other out as well and really feeding off of each other more than competing against each other.

“I look forward to just winning games as a team, whether it’s Steve or I in there, everyone’s going to benefit if the team does well and puts victories up there.”

Emery and Mason have been in touch since the Flyers signed Emery to a one-year, $1.75 million deal this summer. The two goaltenders are already growing comfortable around each other, something necessary for the tandem to work itself out. It's been eight years since the Flyers started a season in which the No. 1 spot was entirely up for grabs.

“It’s great,” Emery said. “It’s good to have someone to kind of relate to, someone that’s in the same boat as you, and to be on the same page as them and have a relationship coming in. It’s good. I think it’s good for the team, it’s good for a good working environment.”

By all accounts, the Flyers who will skate in front of Emery feel comfortable and confident with the team’s situation in net. Whether it's Emery who earns the bulk of the work or Mason, the Flyers are excited about what lies ahead this year and believe the goalie duo sets them up to succeed.

Emery completely understands that mentality.

“They want to win games however they can,” he said. “Personally, I want to win every game I get in. I want to have the best camp I can to be ready when the season comes, and I’m sure Steve does as well. Sometimes it’s just how it shakes down when it gets down to things.

"It’s definitely a healthy situation, I think.”

Flyers-Wild 5 things: Road trip about to become a horror story?

Flyers-Wild 5 things: Road trip about to become a horror story?

Flyers (33-31-8) at Wild (44-22-6)
8 p.m. on CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 7:30

A four-game road trip takes a daunting turn Thursday night when the Flyers play the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

Here are five things to know for the matchup:

1. Hazardous road
You thought things were already ugly?

It looks like it could get much, much worse.

The Flyers now visit three of the NHL's top five clubs, starting with the Wild, followed by the Blue Jackets and the Penguins.

Those three are a combined 137-58-21 overall and 79-24-5 at home.

And it's safe to say the Flyers don't have any momentum heading into this gauntlet. They're coming off a 3-2 loss to the Jets, a non-contender decimated by injuries, and are 4-15-3 on the road since Dec. 19 with a minus-36 goal differential.

"We need to have a better effort," Steve Mason said postgame Tuesday. "We keep playing like this and we'll be mathematically eliminated before we know it."

2. Hole gets deeper
With a win over the Blue Jackets on Wednesday, the Maple Leafs moved past the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division, making Boston the current leader for the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot at 82 points.

The Flyers, with 74 points, trail the Bruins, Islanders (80), Lightning (77) and Hurricanes (75), who have a game in hand, as well. Oh, and the Panthers are just one point behind the Flyers.

Ten regular-season games remain and Dave Hakstol's group needs a miracle.

In search of some type of spark, the Flyers will strut out a different look against the Wild.

"We're running out of time here, so hopefully a couple line changes here gives us a little spark offensively," Matt Read said Wednesday. "We've still got to play better defensively, but you know it's kind of do-or-die right now. So hopefully chemistry clicks right away and things can start going off the bat."

3. A look at the Wild
Minnesota, which went 30-6-3 from the start of December to the end of February, has cooled off a bit but is still one of the most well-rounded teams in the NHL.

The Wild are 3-8-0 in March. For the season, however, they rank among the league's top 10 in goals per game (3.22 -- second), goals against per game (2.47 -- tied for sixth), power-play percentage (21.3 -- ninth) and penalty-kill percentage (83.8 -- seventh).

Mikael Granlund, Eric Staal, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker all have 20 or more goals, while netminder Devan Dubnyk has been a top-five goalie at 37-18-3 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: Jakub Voracek has no goals and an assist in his last six games for a minus-5 rating. When he's not providing offense, the Flyers predictably struggle. The good thing: Voracek owns 16 points in 18 career games against Minnesota.

Wild: Ryan Suter has been a stud for the Wild. The defenseman leads the NHL as a plus-34 and is third with 27:07 of ice time per game. The 32-year-old is Minnesota's backbone and the Wild are 21-6-1 in games that he has at least one point.

5. This and that
• Mason will make his 11th start in the last 12 games. He is 7-6-1 lifetime against Minnesota with a 2.59 goals-against average and .911 save percentage.

• Dubnyk is 2-4-1 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in seven career games against the Flyers.

• Brandon Manning is back in the lineup for Michael Del Zotto (see Skate Update). Manning missed the last fives games with a shoulder injury.

• Former Flyer Ryan White is out for the Wild with an illness.

Flyers Skate Update: Brandon Manning back in lineup vs. Wild

Flyers Skate Update: Brandon Manning back in lineup vs. Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Facing a critical road game in Minnesota on Thursday night, the Flyers will welcome back a key defenseman to their lineup.

Brandon Manning, who has missed the past five games with a shoulder injury, will return and pair with Radko Gudas on the blue line.

“We’re playing a heavy team tonight,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “They’ve got some size up front. They’re a heavy team down low. So, we’ll need that pair to play that way. They’ve got to be an abrasive pair and they have to be on the heavy side defensively.”

Michael Del Zotto will be the odd man out as the Flyers have seven healthy defensemen again. Manning, with three goals and seven assists in 57 games this season, said he’s not worried about conditioning or the injury.

“I’m not too worried about that,” Manning said. “I’m feeling good, I’m feeling strong. Did some contact a few days ago and not even thinking about it.”

Toronto’s win in Columbus on Tuesday night allowed the Maple Leafs to surpass Boston in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins now hold the No. 8 spot in the playoff race with 82 points with nine games remaining. The Flyers are eight points back, with three teams in between, and 10 games left in the season.

Their play on the road is one big reason why the Flyers are out of a playoff spot. They are 12-20-4 on the road this season, tied for the second-fewest road wins among Eastern Conference teams. They’re winless in their last six road games (0-5-1) as they play the second game of a four-game trip.

“I don’t think there’s panic,” Manning said. “I think the focus is on each and every night, not really looking too far down the road. Obviously, the last couple weeks, we’ve probably given up points we don’t want to give up and put ourselves in a pretty tough spot. But we got a good group of guys in here, and guys that have played pro hockey long enough that know what it’s like.”

With Del Zotto's being scratched for Manning, Nick Schultz will play what could be his final game in the Xcel Energy Center, where he spent 10 seasons with the Wild. Schultz, a second-round draft pick by Minnesota in 2000, ranks second in franchise history with 743 games played.

Hakstol said Schultz’s history wasn’t a factor in keeping the defenseman in the lineup.

“He’s filled his role well the last few games,” Hakstol said. “He’s been good in that role with Ghost. So, he’s staying in for that reason.”

Goaltender Steve Mason will start for the 11th time in 12 games. He has a 2.25 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in his last 10 games.

Lineup
F: Read-Giroux-Voracek
Weal-Filppula-Simmons
Schenn-Couturier-Weise
Konecny-Bellemare-VandeVelde

D: Provorov-MacDonald
Schultz-Gostisbehere
Manning-Gudas

G: Mason