Flyers Injury Update: Emery still unable to play

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Flyers Injury Update: Emery still unable to play

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.”

Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

Ron Hextall, Flyers know what they have in Nolan Patrick

CHICAGO — Ron Hextall had no idea which way New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero was leaning.

Would Shero take Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier with his No. 1 pick?

"I asked Ray 10 minutes before he picked and he wouldn't tell me," Hextall said. "I give him credit. That is what he should have done … I didn't have an expectation one way or the other."

Shero wanted a dynamic player to put bodies in the stands at Prudential Center. He chose Hischier.

That made it easy for Hextall at No. 2 to select Patrick (see story).

If rumors were true that Shero was scared off by Patrick's several injuries this past season at Brandon, well, the Flyers weren't.

"What I believe, we gather a lot of information," Hextall said. "There's some stuff out there you want to prove wrong and we did. We're comfortable with the injury part of it. He is a really good young man."

Patrick is a two-way player and a natural center. The Flyers have seven centers right now (see story), including Patrick, who is expected to play now. 

Hextall said he doesn't envision switching Patrick to the wing.

"I would rather have too many centers rather than five wingers on each side and no one to go in the middle," Hextall said.

Interesting that German Rubtsov, last year's top pick for the Flyers, has already been converted to a left winger since coming to North America to play junior.

Will Patrick be a No. 1 center as scouts project?

"Nolan has to answer that," Hextall said. "We see a kid with a big body, extremely high hockey sense, really good skill set. You get drafted today? The work starts now and Nolan has to put the work in.

"This is another level … this is the National Hockey League. In September, he comes to camp. He needs a big summer."

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

Ron Hextall on Flyers' logjam of centers: 'Someone has to play the wing'

CHICAGO – The Flyers already have a familiar problem coming out of this NHL draft and heading training camp next fall: they’re too deep at center.
 
Friday night, they added three centers and traded another.
 
Brayden Schenn was sent to St. Louis for the Blues’ 27th pick in the first round, plus a conditional 2018 first-round pick and veteran utility center Jori Lehtera (see story).
 
General manager Ron Hextall wanted to trade back into the first round late and he did so by tabbing Morgan Frost at No. 27 with that Blues’ pick.
 
NHL Central Scouting had Frost ranked 31st among North American skaters. He is a 6-0, 170-pound forward from Aurora, Ontario.
 
He has raw speed and skill, but scouts say other parts of his game will need time to fill out. Frost had 20 goals and 62 points for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL this past season.
 
Friday’s other first-round pick, Nolan Patrick, is a natural centerman. Patrick is expected to play in the NHL this season. So right now, the Flyers’ centers are Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula, Mike Vecchione, plus Patrick and now Lehtera.
 
Lehtera had 30 goals and 100 points in 218 games with the Blues. He was both a first- and second-line center for the Blues this past season despite weak numbers — seven goals and 22 points in 64 games.
 
He is a decent playmaker and two-way player, who has centered Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko.
 
“He is utility guy with a well-rounded game and can play in the middle,” Hextall said. “We like the player. Gives coach more options.”
 
Best option: Lehtera can move to left wing if needed.
 
“Someone has to play the wing,” Hextall said. “He can play the wing. Our scouts have seen him play the wing, but he plays center most games. I am assuming he prefers center like most of them. Someone has to play wing.”
 
Schenn had improved every year he was with the Flyers, but too much of his scoring is on the power play and not five-on-five. He had 109 goals and 246 points in 424 career games for the Flyers.
 
This deal seems strange unless you consider the Flyers got another first-round pick (Frost) and a top-10 protected, conditional first-rounder next year. The Blues have the option to defer the 2018 first-rounder to 2019 but if they do so, the Flyers will also receive the Blues' 2020 third-round pick.
 
“It was a combination,” Hextall said of the advantages’ from the Flyers side. “It was one of those [trades] that came out of nowhere. Not like we were shopping Brayden.
 
“This deal came along and we really like the draft next year. We like the late pick this year and Jori. It made sense and we got a couple more young players.”
 
Young players like Frost, whom the Flyers are excited about.
 
“Our whole staff really liked the guy,” Hextall said. “He’s an extremely intelligent player, his No. 1 asset. Really smart. Reads the ice well. He has a very deft touch moving the puck.
 
“Good two-way player who showed up good in the testing. We believe he is a kid with a lot of upside. Good speed, but he dissects the game better than most players.”
 
Frost’s father Andy was the longtime former Toronto Maple Leafs PA announcer.
 
“I talked to them a couple times,” Frost said. “I’d say I had a bit of a gut feeling. I wasn’t too sure, but they took me and I’m super happy about it.
 
“I think first and foremost I’m a playmaker. I think I’m a high-skilled player that likes to use his vision and hockey sense to create plays. I’m working on becoming more of a two-way forward. That’s more of the player I want to become.”