Goaltending Suddenly an Issue again for .500 Flyers

Steve Mason (above) and Ray Emery will compete for the starting goaltender spot in training camp and into the regular season. Steve Mason (above) and Ray Emery have both been struggling in net lately.

Here we go again.

After nearly two months where the play of the men behind the mask was about the only area the Flyers weren’t having concerns, suddenly the Flyers goal is becoming a red light district.

And they can’t even blame Ilya Bryzgalov.

Over the first 28 games only twice did the opposition put more than three shots past either Steve Mason or Ray Emery—the worst coming in that November 1 7-0 debacle vs. Washington. But in the last eight games it’s been a deluge.

When Emery surrendered three quick third period goals to turn a 2-2 game into a 6-3 loss Saturday night in Columbus, it marked the sixth time in those eight Philadelphia goalies have allowed four goals or more. While the defense, which played without flu-ridden Niklas Grossmann Saturday, has hardly been blameless and the forwards need to backcheck more, the fact remains Mason and Emery seemed to be stopping everything in sight prior to a 5-1 loss in Dallas December 7.

Since then teams are scoring at an alarming rate.

Look for Craig Berube to turn back to Mason tonight when the 16-16-4 Flyers put their eight game home winning streak on the line vs. the Minnesota Wild. With their second six-game road trip this month on the horizon, the Flyers not only need to quickly shake this one off, but get back to the level of play that had marked their recovery from a disastrous 1-7 start that cost Peter Laviolette his job.

They’ll also be out to avenge a 2-0 loss to the Wild back on December 2, where Jason Pominville and Charlie Coyle beat Emery 57 seconds apart in the third to spell the difference. Josh Harding, who turned aside 21 shots, will likely be back in the Minnesota net.

Like the Flyers, the 20-12-5 Wild, who faced the Rangers last night at the Garden, are in the midst of a playoff battle, currently holding a one-point edge over No. 9 Phoenix. The Flyers, who fell into 9th in the East behind the Devils, won’t play again until Saturday in Edmonton, where they might see Bryzgalov.

From there they go to Vancouver, Calgary, Colorado and Phoenix, before wrapping it up against the Devils.

After getting a surprising early return from his back injury from Vinny Lecavalier, Berube will hope Grossmann’s well enough to go tonight, However, the Flyers won’t have winger Steve Downie, who’s out a week-to-10 days with an upper body injury not concussion related and defenseman Erik Gustafsson is questionable with a lower body injury.

No matter who plays, though, getting Mason and/or Emery back to their old form would undoubtedly be the best recipe for their success.

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