Flyers' Mason, Emery ready for goalie battle

Ray Emery is healthy in his second stint with the Flyers.
Ray Emery is healthy in his second stint with the Flyers. (MATT ROURKE / AP)
Posted: September 13, 2013

Throughout the years, Steve Mason and Ray Emery have trained together in Ontario during the summer and exchanged tips and ideas about stopping a tiny piece of hardened rubber.

Now they happen to be battling for the same starting goaltender job with the Flyers.

"You hope they push each other and do so in a competitive way, a way that best benefits the team," coach Peter Laviolette said Wednesday.

The Flyers training camp opens Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center, and the competition between Mason and Emery figures to be the most intriguing development.

"We have a good relationship, and I expect it to get better," said Emery, who will turn 31 on Sept. 28.

The two aren't looking at it as a competition as much as a joint venture.

"It's nice to already have a relationship built with him," said Mason, 25. "For both of us, moving forward, we definitely just want to give the team some quality goaltending."

Last season, with Ilya Bryzgalov (2.79 goals-against average, .900 save percentage) shouldering the load, the Flyers had just a 2.90 goals-against average, tying them for 22d in the 30-team NHL. The Flyers bought out the remaining seven years on Bryzgalov's contract - general manager Paul Holmgren called it a "costly mistake" - and they will pay him $23 million for not playing.

Mason excelled in a seven-game Flyers stint (1.90 GAA, .944 save percentage) after being acquired from Columbus last spring. Emery, coming off a brilliant season (17-1, 1.94 GAA, .922 save percentage) with the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, signed as a free agent in the offseason and is back for his second stretch with the Flyers.

Having spent the end of last season with the Flyers and goalie coach Jeff Reese, Mason said, is invaluable because he got a head start on forming bonds with his teammates. He was acquired last April for Michael Leighton and a third-round draft pick in 2015.

"I'm really looking forward to picking up where I left off," Mason said.

As for Emery, he has not played a season as the No. 1 goalie since 2006-07, when he was in 58 games for Ottawa. But Emery, three years removed from major hip surgery, said he is physically able to play the majority of the Flyers' games.

"Yeah, I'd love to," he said. "Physically, I'm more worried about winning 70 percent of those games or whatever it is. I just kind of take things one at a time."

Before tweaking his groin late last season, Emery was under consideration to be the Blackhawks' No. 1 playoff goalie. But by the time he was healthy, Corey Crawford was on a roll, and Emery did not play in the postseason.

"I'm excited about this year and not really thinking about last year," he said.

While Emery flourished in Chicago last season, Mason struggled and lost his job to Sergei Bobrovsky, the former Flyer who won the Vezina Trophy, before being dealt to the Flyers.

"It's a real refreshing feeling to have a clean slate and start from the ground up again," Mason said.

Because of his experience, Emery will be a mentor of sorts to Mason.

"This is the first time [Mason] has had a veteran guy with him - aside from the little bit last year with Bryz - and you can see how much [Emery] helped Corey in Chicago," Reese said. "He's going to come in here and he's going help [Mason] because he's a good team guy and wants to win hockey games. But he wants to play, too. They both want to play, so it's going to be good, healthy competition."

Contact Sam Carchidi at Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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