With their first-round series against the New York Rangers tied 1-1, the Philadelphia Flyers will not have regular starting goaltender Steve Mason in net when the team returns home to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Tuesday.
Mason, who missed the first two games of the series with an upper-body injury, told reporters in Philadelphia Monday that he would not be available to play. Backup goalie Ray Emery will make his third consecutive playoff start for the Flyers, with depth goalie Cal Heeter backing him up.
Mason said Emery's strong play has eased any urgency for him to rush his return. Emery has saved 63 of 69 shots in the first pair of games this series. The 31-year-old played particularly well in Sunday's 4-2 win over the Rangers, making 31 saves and posting a .939 save percentage to knot the series at one game apiece.
"The way Razor's playing, there's no hurry," Mason told local reporters on Monday.
The 25-year-old Mason said he is now shooting for Game 4, which is not until Friday in Philadelphia. But if Emery continues to play well, Flyers coach Craig Berube may have a difficult decision to make.
Ride the hot hand? Or go back to your No. 1 guy, even though he has not played in over a week?
"I'm not really thinking that far ahead," Berube said when asked about that potential scenario following Sunday's game.
Mason has practiced regularly since Friday, but has not played since suffering the injury on a second-period collision during the Flyers' 4-3 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the last weekend of the regular season.
He also has less playoff experience than Emery, who gained valuable postseason starts during his time with the Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks. By comparison, Mason has played in only four playoff games, when the Columbus Blue Jackets were swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round during his rookie season back in 2009.
Emery has earned the respect of his own teammates with his play thus far, and from his opponents as well.
"He's played well. We said it. I don't know if everyone believed it. We thought either goalie was very capable," Rangers veteran center Brad Richards said. "Emery fights. He's been to a Stanley Cup final. He played well last year on a team that won. He's a very capable goalie, so that's not going to change. We have to keep pounding pucks and getting traffic."