ST. PAUL, Minn. - After more than 4 days of examination and a battery of tests, the Flyers are convinced goaltender Steve Mason will not miss a significant amount of time.

Mason, who needed to be helped off the ice during practice Friday, is expected to rejoin the team after Christmas when the Flyers' eight-game road slog continues.

The truth is the Flyers don't have any sort of concrete answer as to how much time Mason will miss. His situation is fluid and will be based on feel.

The only definite is that Mason has been ruled out for Saturday's game in Nashville, since he will not have skated over the NHL's mandatory 3-day holiday break.

"Our belief is that he'll come on the trip after Christmas, start off slowly and then progress. That's pretty much all I have," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said yesterday. "I'll say this: I'm confident that he's not going to be out long. There's nothing serious wrong with him."

The public diagnosis from the team is an "upper-body" injury, but many signs pointed last week to a back injury or spasm, something that also popped up during Mason's tenure in Columbus.

However long Mason is out, the Flyers seem to be covered well in goal, with Ray Emery and Rob Zepp sharing the duties. Coach Craig Berube said there was "no question in my mind" he'd go back to Emery last night against the Wild following Zepp's strong NHL debut.

For now, Hextall wasn't able to say with any certainty that Mason would return to skating on Saturday morning in the Music City.

"It's such a projection," Hextall said. "Hopefully, he skates in Nashville. If he does, we'll see how he is and then play it after that."