Is the clock ticking for Ray Emery as Flyers backup?

The Philadelphia Flyers obviously know who their starting goaltender is for this season and beyond.

The backup job, on the other hand, is another question.

With Steve Mason firmly entrenched at No. 1, the reserve role may have turned into a two-horse race between Ray Emery and Rob Zepp. Emery, a veteran of nine NHL seasons, has been the team’s backup the last two years but his inconsistent performances this season, including his most recent, could ultimately cost him his job.

After allowing two softies on just four shots in the first six minutes of Tuesday’s 4-3 shootout victory over the Coyotes, he was yanked in favor of Mason, who made his first appearance since missing seven games with a lower body injury.

Emery was coming off one of his best games – albeit a week ago – with 33 saves during a 3-2 overtime win over the Penguins.

However, his regression actually has been a disturbing pattern this season. Since filling in admirably when Mason struggled in October, he has followed up a stellar outing with a handful of clunkers.

With the feel-good story Zepp having played well while Mason was out, the Flyers could go with the 33-year-old career minor leaguer over Emery before the season ends. Although Zepp was loaned back to the Phantoms on Wednesday, his stay in Lehigh Valley could end up as a short one if Emery fails to develop some consistency.

While Emery’s teammates felt Craig Berube was sending the skaters a message with the early hook, the head coach didn’t exactly throw much support behind the netminder when given the chance in his post-game press conference.

“I don’t think the team was really flat (to start the game),” Berube said. “I’m sure Ray didn’t want that first goal to go in so I just made a change. I felt we needed a boost to give us some life.”

The first goal – on a shot from the blue line – went off Emery’s upper body, bounced behind him and skirted into the net. Then, Emery kicked out a fat rebound right in front of the goal that Oliver Ekman-Larrson buried.

Berube had seen enough and made the call to the bullpen for Mason, who finished with 22 saves.

“Obviously, it’s something,” R.J. Umberger said. “I mean with 33 games left there’s no time for that and not to be ready. Every point matters right now and that was a message to (all of us to) get going.

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