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Flyers lack confidence in Emery

The latest example is that Rob Zepp started in place of injured Steve Mason against Tampa Bay.

Flyers goalie Ray Emery. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Flyers goalie Ray Emery. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

IF CRAIG BERUBE'S lack of confidence in backup Ray Emery was not on full display last week, when Steve Mason injured and reinjured himself in three consecutive games and did not receive any relief, it reached a new low last night.

With Mason likely sidelined until after the All-Star break, Berube opted not for Emery but journeyman Rob Zepp to make his second career start against the Eastern Conference-leading Lightning.

"I liked [Zepp's] energy and we're going to need energy tonight," Berube said after the team's morning skate. "It's just a decision I made."

Emery seemed bothered by the fact he didn't start.

"You always want to be in there,'' Emery said after the Flyers' 7-3 victory. "You want to contribute. But I'm part of the team, I want the team to do well. I can't control when I play. I think the most beneficial way to react is to put in hard work and show them I want to play.''

Berube downplayed his lack of confidence in Emery. The numbers paint a different story.

Emery, 32, started just six of the last 29 games for which Mason was also available. He was pulled in one of those starts, in New Jersey on Jan. 3. Last night was the fifth game Mason was sidelined with injury this season and Zepp, a 33-year-old rookie, has now started two of them.

Since beginning the season on a 4-0-1 run, Emery has compiled a 3-7-0 mark with an unsightly .849 save percentage and 3.54 goals-against average in 11 appearances.

"I feel OK about it,'' Emery said of his season. "I think I have a clear role here, that's more of a complement guy to [Mason]. Obviously I want to be in there whenever I can and do better. I've dropped a couple recently, so I think it's more a 'What have you done for me lately?' thing. Next time I get in there, I want to win.''

Berube pointed to the Flyers' lack of "chemistry" with goaltenders as a big reason for the team's 12th-place standing in the Eastern Conference.

"Mason and Ray have played well and we don't score enough goals for them. Or, we score enough goals and they let in a goal that maybe they shouldn't have," Berube said. "It's different things that pop up. ''

Berube has praised Emery at varying points this season. He has referred to him time and time again as a "proven winner" and a "battler." He also committed to using Emery this week, as his team is in the midst of playing six games in 9 days.

But it certainly appears there is more of a buzz in the Flyers' dressing room when Zepp is in net. One of the team's most genuinely happy postgame scenes was in Winnipeg on Dec. 21 when Zepp became the oldest goaltender to win his NHL debut in 88 years.

"I thought in Winnipeg, his competitiveness enabled us to win the game," Berube said. "The way he was always in position and quickness in net . . . He made that [highlight-reel] save in the second period, that's just sheer will on that play. He's got structure to his game and moves well in net. A hunch? Not really. We're going to need both goalies. [Zepp] has played well down [in the AHL]. He won his last game down there. I like his energy and I like the way he is playing."

Gagne's tough road

Former Flyer Simon Gagne announced yesterday he will not return to the Boston Bruins this season. Gagne took a leave of absence from the Bruins on Dec. 10 to be with his ailing father. Pierre Gagne passed away on Christmas Day at the age of 68, just weeks after advanced liver cancer was discovered.

"The last month has been extremely difficult for me with my father being sick and his passing," Gagne said in a statement. "To play in the NHL, you have to be 100 percent mentally, emotionally and physically committed to the game. At this time, I know I cannot be close to those levels . . . I would like to thank the fans and the NHL family for all of the support that they have given my family and I during this difficult time - it has truly meant a lot."

Gagne and the Bruins mutually decided to change his status to "suspended player" to open up room on Boston's 23-man roster for other players. His sudden and gut-wrenching departure leaves many wondering whether he has played his last NHL game.

Gagne, 34, earned a contract with the Bruins in October after patiently waiting through the start of the season as a free agent. He averaged just over 11 minutes per game and posted three goals with one assist in 23 games, last skating on Dec. 6 before his father was diagnosed. Gagne ranks ninth all-time in Flyers franchise history in goals (264), 10th in games (691), 10th in points (535) and fourth in points among left wingers.

Pierre Gagne was a police officer for 34 years in Simon's hometown of Sainte Foy, Quebec. He played junior hockey for the Quebec Aces and made it to the AHL before becoming actively involved in Quebec youth hockey circles.