The Philadelphia Flyers added goaltending depth Tuesday when general manager Ron Hextall said veteran Ray Emery would join the team on a tryout basis.
But Steve Mason will be in goal Wednesday against the Washington Capitals at Wells Fargo Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360) and likely for the majority of their final seven games of the regular season.
Wednesday will be Mason's seventh straight start and 12th in the past 13 games because of a lower-body injury sustained by Michal Neuvirth on March 16. Mason has excelled with the increased playing time, going 7-2-2 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in his past 11 games.
But with three sets of back-to-backs remaining and rookie Antony Stolarz behind Mason in Neuvith's absence, finding veteran depth took on even greater importance when veteran Jason LaBarbera, who had been playing with Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League, sustained a season-ending injury.
"With losing Neuvirth we felt like we had to have a little bit of depth," Hextall said. "So Ray happened to be available and was willing to come in on a tryout."
Emery, 33, is experienced and familiar to the Flyers, having spent the previous two seasons as Mason's backup. But after he went 10-11-7 with a 3.06 GAA and .894 save percentage in 31 games last season the Flyers signed Neuvirth last summer as an upgrade.
Emery had a short stint in training camp with the Tampa Bay Lightning, then had separate three-game stints with Ontario and Toronto, AHL affiliates of the Los Angeles Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs, respectively. He recently played seven games with Mannheim in Germany, where he had a 2.86 GAA and .900 save percentage.
"This is not a reflection at all of [Stolarz]," Hextall said. "Just so we have a third guy. We truly don't have a third guy in the organization. Ray made sense.
"[Emery] is going to stay with the Flyers. He's not eligible for the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs so basically he's an insurance policy for the rest of the regular season given how thin we've gotten."
Stolarz, 22, is 19-15-7 with a 2.59 GAA and .916 save percentage in 42 AHL games this season and he played in the 2016 AHL All-Star Game.
However, he has yet to play in an NHL game and it would be difficult to have that first game come in the heat of a playoff race.
The Flyers and Detroit Red Wings, who lost 4-3 to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday, each have 87 points but the Flyers have possession of the second wild card in the Eastern Conference because they've played two fewer games.
After Wednesday the Flyers' next three games will be at home Saturday against the Ottawa Senators, Sunday at the Pittsburgh Penguins and then a pivotal game April 6 against the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. To keep Mason fresh for games against the Penguins and Red Wings, the Flyers could opt for a backup against the Senators.
"Obviously the stakes are high right now," Hextall said. "[Mason] is playing extremely well. We're not going to play Stoli [Stolarz] so we see how a young goalie reacts. We're going to play Stoli if Stoli gives us the best chance to win. This obviously isn't the time for tryouts or looking at young players. It's a time to dig in and do everything we can to make the playoffs."
Hextall said the goaltending depth chart won't change, meaning Stolarz remains Mason's backup.
"He's been good in practice," Hextall said of Stolarz. "This is just more of a 'Let's add a depth guy.' God forbid someone gets injured, we're scrambling, so this just gives us a guy in-house who's on the ice and practicing and can be sharp if need be."
He also provides depth until Neuvirth returns, but that likely won't be until the playoffs, if the Flyers get that far.
"He's on schedule, but I think the end of the [regular] season is probably a stretch at this point," Hextall said.