RAY EMERY may wear orange and black, but the way he views himself - as an adhesive bandage covering an open wound - should tell you everything you need to know about the Flyers' goaltending situation.
"I'm kind of a Band-Aid here while [Steve Mason] is hurt," Emery said yesterday. "I don't like seeing 'Mase' hurt. Teamwise, if your starter goes down, it's kind of a tough position. I just want to play the best I can."
So far, Emery has played well enough to earn the Flyers home-ice advantage in their first-round playoff series against the Rangers. His steadiness has not only adequately covered that wound, suffered when Mason was run over by Pittsburgh's Jayson Megna on April 12, but also allowed Mason to call his own shots during his recovery process.
Mason, 25, ruled himself out for tonight's Game 3 against New York after skating for 35 minutes yesterday. Cal Heeter will continue to be Emery's backup.
"Right now, the way Razor's playing, there's no hurry," Mason said. "He's the reason we won [Game 2]. I think even if I was ready, there's no reason to take him out right now. There could be a little bit more urgency, but we don't have to cross that bridge. He's playing great."
Mason said yesterday was "a step in the right direction," but his apparent concussion-like symptoms have hampered him off the ice. He made the call to not even dress for Game 3 based on the way "you feel when you're done with practice."
"Every day, honestly, it's a different story," Mason said. "Some days are really good and others aren't great. [Yesterday] was better. We'll just hope [today] is even better. I feel good with the goaltending part of practice, but there are other things that are affecting the decision."
Emery's play has put coach Craig Berube in a no-lose situation. Berube can stick with Emery because he is playing well. He can stick with Emery because Mason is not ready. Or, he can go with Mason once he is ready to go back to his No. 1 goaltender.
For Game 3, the answer is clear-cut, without guesswork or even intrigue.
"When Steve's ready, Steve is ready," Berube said. "Until then, there's nothing really to talk about. I'm saying Ray is playing next game. That's it. That's where I'm leaving it. The other guy is not ready, so I'm going to play the guy that is ready. And that's it. There's nothing else really to talk about."
Through two games, the Flyers have been shorthanded 12 different times. That is nearly as many power-play opportunities handed out in the first two games combined in four other series: Detroit-Boston (11), Colorado-Minnesota (12), San Jose-Los Angeles (13), Tampa Bay-Montreal (13).
"Let's just say we don't want to take six penalties a game," Berube said. "Let's just leave it at that. You're going to get penalties in a game just because, but you can't take emotional, dumb ones and careless penalties. It's going to hurt you. We've got to keep our emotions in check and play between the whistles."
For all the talk about discipline, though, the Flyers have done a decent enough job killing New York's chances (9-for-12, 75 percent). They've been even better in capitalizing on their own (2-for-4).
As the series shifts to Wells Fargo Center, the Flyers will need to figure out a way to improve their power play at home. They were the NHL's best power play (25.2 percent) on the road, but just 25th (15.1 percent) at home.
"It does come down to patience at times," Berube said. "When you're at home, there's a little more pressure to perform with the fans. We need to be more simple, first of all, and not forcing things. They've got some fast killers who can go the other way. We've got to be smart and we've got to shoot the hockey puck and get it through. We can't allow [Ryan] McDonagh, [Dan] Girardi, [Marc] Staal to block shots. It doesn't have to be a real hard shot."