For starters, who's in net for home-and-home vs. Pittsburgh?

Posted: March 14, 2014

OUT OF ALL the decisions Craig Berube will be forced to make on the fly this weekend in back-to-back games against the Penguins, perhaps his toughest choice will be one of the few that he actually can plan ahead: his starting goaltenders.

Ray Emery, who hasn't dressed since pulling himself from the loss to San Jose on Feb. 27, skated for more than 90 minutes yesterday in practice - adding an interesting wrinkle to Berube's decision.

Emery saw most of the work in practice while spare Cal Heeter, the Phantoms goaltender who has served as Steve Mason's backup for the past 2 weeks, largely stood to the side. All signs point to Emery being available this weekend, and later in the day Heeter was sent down to the Phantoms.

"I've felt better each time I've been on the ice," Emery said. "It's just a matter of being real confident in movements and being sharp, game-ready."

Berube said "it's possible" Emery will be in net for at least one of the consecutive matinee showings of the NHL's best rivalry - and he wasn't willing to commit to Mason for the first game tomorrow at Wells Fargo Center. To help with his decision, Berube said he peruses each goaltender's career numbers against a given opponent.

They are likely a large reason why Berube decided to go with Emery against Pittsburgh back on Nov. 13, when his surprising start following a Mason shutout dealt the Penguins one of only four regulation losses at Consol Energy Center this season.

"I consider it," Berube said. "It's part of the process of looking at everything. I don't think you can just go by that."

You see, if you were to just compare Mason's and Emery's raw numbers against the Penguins, they look similar but don't tell the whole story.

In five career games vs. Pittsburgh, Mason has a respectable 2-2-1 record, .908 save percentage and 3.18 goals against-average in 264 minutes.

On the other hand, Emery has compiled a 5-4-2 record, .894 save percentage and 2.78 goals against-average in 670 minutes.

At first glance, one would be drawn to Mason's .908 save percentage - perhaps the most important stat in goaltending - and settle on him to start the set of games.

The only problem is those numbers - for both goalies - don't take into account the games that Sidney Crosby and, to a lesser extent, Evgeni Malkin have missed over the years to injury. With respect to who is in the lineup, the numbers vary greatly.

Mason has only faced Pittsburgh once in more than 3 calendar years, dating back to Feb. 8, 2011. His only start in that time span was Oct. 17's 4-1 loss this season, which is deceiving since Mason held the Pens to a 2-1 advantage until the final few minutes.

When Crosby plays, Mason is 1-2-1 with an .892 save percentage (107 saves on 120 shots) and 3.98 goals against-average. Crosby has three goals (on 17 shots), five assists and one shootout game-winner in four career games against Mason.

"It's easy to get worked up when you're playing against top players and trying to pump yourself up," Mason said yesterday. "But I think it's about keeping your emotions in check and just taking the game in stride. As soon as you step on the ice, it doesn't matter which team you're playing against, it's just a matter of controlling the game when you're out there."

Emery's numbers against Pittsburgh when Crosby is in the lineup are actually better than when he is absent. He is 4-3-2 with an .895 save percentage (205 saves on 229 shots) and a 2.62 goals against-average. Interestingly, Crosby has been held pointless four times against Emery and he only has two goals (on 34 shots) and four assists in nine career games.

"They get those pretty goals, but they also keep things simple, create some traffic as well," Emery said. "You've got to match their intensity and take time and space away from those gifted players. Any time you play a team like that, you're up to face them - especially playing them in Philly - and you're always pumped up when they come in."

With those numbers in mind, Berube said he will see how tomorrow plays out before making a decision about Sunday.

"Goalies are different breeds," Berube said. "Maybe they feel comfortable against certain teams, or who knows what goes on? But we do look at that."

Slap shots

The Flyers spent 90 minutes practicing yesterday, with a large majority of it spent on the power play on a fresh sheet of ice. "I think when we've had good practices, we've come out and had good games," Berube said . . . The Flyers announced credit cards will not be accepted for payments in parking lots effective for tomorrow's game against Pittsburgh . . . Forward Chris VandeVelde was sent down to the Phantoms . . . Kasperi Kapanen, the 17-year-old son of former Flyer Sami Kapanen, played alongside his dad in Sami's final professional hockey game last night in Finland. Sami Kapanen, 40, played his final NHL game with the Flyers in 2008. Kasperi Kapanen is ranked second among European skaters, according to the International Scouting Service ahead of this June's NHL draft at Wells Fargo Center.

Quotable

"I have not looked at the standings once. If you're on this team, and you don't know where you are, that's a problem."

- Craig Berube yesterday when asked if he pays attention to the standings or posts them around the team's practice facility for his players to see.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

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