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30 in 15: Goalie tandem worth a watch at Flyers camp

by Adam Kimelman / continues its preview of the 2013-14 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

When a team misses the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there's a period of reflection and usually change that leads to more questions the following season.

When that team has missed the playoffs twice in 20 years, there are some other emotions, among them shock at an early end to the previous season and anger at what happened.

There's also determination to see that whatever problems plagued the previous season don't creep back in, and that process begins with training camp.

For the Philadelphia Flyers, who missed the postseason in 2013 for the second time since 1994, part of that process includes how these three issues are settled heading into the 2013-14 season:

1. Will a No. 1 goalie emerge? -- Steve Mason, acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline, and free-agent signee Ray Emery will enter training camp on equal footing. Will one of them emerge as the clear-cut No. 1 goalie?

Ray Emery
Goalie - PHI
RECORD: 17-1-0
GAA: 1.94 | SVP: 0.922
Or does one have to? Emery was 17-1-0 last season while splitting starts nearly evenly with Corey Crawford with the Chicago Blackhawks, and all that did was help the Blackhawks win the Presidents' Trophy en route to winning the Stanley Cup. Mason played seven of the Flyers' final 13 games after arriving from the Columbus Blue Jackets, and alternating with Ilya Bryzgalov helped Mason post his best numbers since he won the Calder Trophy in 2009.

Having a locked-in No. 1 goalie certainly has its advantages, but a 50/50 split does too. Each goalie would stay fresh through an 82-game schedule, and the internal competition could push them to perform better.

"You go back and you see the teams are able to do it with two goaltenders and they're able to find success," coach Peter Laviolette told "You go back to Boston [in 2011] and Tim Thomas played more of the playoff games, but he and Tuukka Rask split the [regular season] games. Ray played 18 games [last season] in a lockout-shortened season. There's room for two goalies to push each other. They'll work through that and figure it out together. In the right relationship and using them in the right way, they can push each other to be successful."

2. How will the numbers work on defense? -- After scuffling to find bodies to fill out the roster due to injuries late last season, the Flyers now might have too many healthy defensemen.

The Flyers entered training camp with nine defensemen on one-way contracts, plus training camp invitee Hal Gill. Then there's prospects Oliver Lauridsen and Brandon Manning, each of whom impressed in call-ups late last season, as well as 2013 first-round pick (No. 11) Samuel Morin, who signed his entry-level contract Sept. 17. 

It's a marked change from last season, when the Flyers had 13 defensemen play at least one game, tied for the most the in the League, and had six defenders finish the season on the injured list.

The big offseason addition to the defense was 35-year-old Mark Streit, who brings a missing offensive element. However his arrival, combined with the returning injured players, means the only defenseman with a guaranteed roster spot younger than 27 is Luke Schenn, 23. The team's best defenseman entering the season will be 38-year-old Kimmo Timonen.

How things play out between the start of camp and the start of the regular season will be interesting to watch. However, general manager Paul Holmgren is confident whatever the makeup of the group, he'll have a solid defense.

"We really like our defense," Holmgren said during the summer. "We were able to add Mark Streit to our defense. We had a lot of injures last year [and] we're counting on [Braydon Coburn] and Andrej Meszaros and Nick Grossmann to bounce back and have the type of years we expect them to have. We'll be in good shape."

3. Where will Vincent Lecavalier fit? -- When the longtime Tampa Bay Lightning center and five-time 30-goal scorer hit the free-agent market, the Flyers jumped to sign him to a five-year contract. Now comes the time to find him a spot.

He could replace Daniel Briere as the second-line center, skating between Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. Holmgren said Lecavalier occasionally could shift to right wing on the top line with center Claude Giroux.

Whatever line Lecavalier plays on, the key is how he adjusts to the Flyers' up-tempo offense. Lecavalier is 33 and injuries have limited him to fewer than 65 games each season since 2009-10.

Lecavalier said he's looking forward to what he can do working with Laviolette.

"I felt great," Lecavalier told reporters following his first on-ice session of training camp. "It was a great practice. It was nice to get an organized practice; the last few weeks was good with the guys, but to get a real practice in, 3-on-3s and 5-on-5s and 4-on-4s, down in the zone and stuff, it was a lot of fun."

The coach also was pleased with the result.

"To get him out there in that first group, to see a big body like that moving up and down the middle of the ice, I thought he looked terrific," Laviolette said. "His skating was great. You can tell that he came here and he wants to dig in and enjoy this, and the way he's working and the way he's fitting in with the guys, he's going to be a big piece or us this year. Getting him out there in the first practice was nice to see."


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