VORHEES, N.J. - Ray Emery isn’t the type of person who lives in the past.
When you’ve seen your career nearly derailed by a serious hip injury, it’s a good idea to reside in the present.
Given his somewhat unexpected return to the marquee for the Philadelphia Flyers in this opening-round series with the New York Rangers, you can’t blame the veteran goalie for wanting to keep his focus on Game 3, which goes Tuesday’s game at Wells Fargo Center.
“It’s the best time of the year and it’s been awhile since I’ve played in a playoff series,” said Emery, who has stopped 63 of 69 shots while filling in for injured starter Steve Mason. “I really appreciate being in there. Team-wise, if your starter goes down, it’s a tough position. I just want to fill in the best I can. I’m kind of a Band-Aid until (Mason) gets better.”
That Emery, who picked up his first playoff victory in three years on Sunday, has played a pivotal role as the Flyers earned a split after the first two games at Madison Square Garden comes with a healthy dose of irony.
Just last season, the proverbial skate was on the other foot, if you will.
Emery was splitting time with Chicago Blackhawks starter Corey Crawford during the stretch drive and sporting a 17-1 record and 1.94 goals against average with a .922 save percentage and three shutouts in 21 appearances during the lockout-shortened season, numbers that made him an option to at least see some action in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
However, a groin injury sidelined Emery late in the season and he never got back in the crease.
“I’m a team guy and if the team is doing well, I’m happy. I had a great time during the playoffs,” Emery said. “I didn’t mind not playing, in that aspect, but getting injured was frustrating and being a competitive guy, I always want to be in there if I get the chance.”
Despite hearing Emery say all the right things about enjoying the ride, we couldn’t help but ask if part of him wonders how things might have turned out had he not gotten hurt?
“Not really. I did, so you just kind of move on,” said Emery, 31, who signed for a second tour of duty with the Flyers on a one-year deal as an unrestricted free agent last summer. “I enjoyed my last time here (2009-10) and I felt it got cut short by injury. I still had a lot of relationships in the organization, so it was a good fit.”
Given his remarkable comeback from hip surgery with the Anaheim Ducks back in February of 2011, it’s no surprise to see the Cayuga, Ont., product relish this latest chance to shine.
Known for his explosive temper during his younger days, Emery remains intense but has better control of his emotions.
“You evolve,” said Emery, who led the Ottawa Senators to the Stanley Cup final in 2007. “The game has changed since then and so have I. You learn from experiences and technically, I’m different.”
Emery has made an impression on his teammtaes, there’s no doubt about that.
“With Ray, it doesn’t matter if he’s winning a couple or in a row or he’s not playing for five in a row, he’s got the same attitude,” said Flyers defenceman Luke Schenn, who scored the winner in Sunday’s 4-2 win. “He works hard every day and obviously, he’s been around for a long time and he’s real competitive.”
Flyers head coach Craig Berube has seen the growth in Emery’s game since his time as a top prospect with the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League.
“He was always a big guy that battled hard, competed hard and (made) second-effort saves,” said Berube, who coached against Emery in the AHL. “Patience is probably the biggest thing.”
How long Emery keeps the net or how deep he can lead the Flyers during this playoff run is anyone’s guess.
For the time being, Emery has earned the opportunity to carry the Flyers’ hopes on his shoulders and it’s clear he’s going to enjoy the ride.
RANGERS NOT HAPPY ABOUT DIVING CALLS
There’s no way to embellish how Derek Dorsett and Mats Zuccarello feel about being called for diving.
The New York Rangers wingers were called for embellishment on separate plays during the second period of Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 2 and that didn’t sit well with either player.
Dorsett was cross-checked into the boards from behind by Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds at 11:41 of the second and didn’t feel like he made the hit look worse than it actually was.
“I’m not sure if (the referees) changed their mind after (the Flyers) started yelling. I’m in a vulnerable position. I can’t see what’s coming behind me,” Dorsett said. “Whether I went down easy or not, in my opinion, I wasn’t diving.”
Zuccarello drew an interference minor against Flyers defenceman Andrew MacDonald, but joined him in the box at 8:40 of the middle frame for the way he fell to the ice.
“I didn’t agree with that call but at same time it’s fast hockey out there and the ref makes mistake like we do,” Zuccarello said. “You get pretty irritated right there when you think it’s a bad call but ... I think everybody who watches me plays knows I’m not a diver.”
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault basically pleaded the fifth when asked about the embellishment calls after Monday’s optional skate at Madison Square Garden.
“Did you see the replays?” said Vigneault, before biting his tongue to avoid a potential fine. “I’ll let you make the judgment and make the call on that. It doesn’t matter what I think.”