Flyers goalie Leighton out a month with bulging disk in lower back
NEWARK, N.J. - Paul Holmgren called Michael Leighton's latest injury setback a "bombshell." For most, it was less surprising that the general manager revealed yesterday that Leighton will miss at least the first month of the season with a bulging diskin his lower back, given his ambiguous handling of the injury on Monday.
NEWARK, N.J. - Paul Holmgren called Michael Leighton's latest injury setback a "bombshell."
For most, it was less surprising that the general manager revealed yesterday that Leighton will miss at least the first month of the season with a bulging diskin his lower back, given his ambiguous handling of the injury on Monday.
Either way, it doesn't change the fact that the Flyers will be without their starting goaltender for the start of the season after dressing seven netminders over the course of last season.
Beginning last night - with their 3-2 loss to the Devils in their fourth preseason tuneup - and for the foreseeable future, the spotlight will be on Brian Boucher in net.
Boucher stopped 25 of 28 shots in 60 minutes last night.
"It's a different team and a different year," coach Peter Laviolette said. "I think it's easier [now for Boucher] for a lot of reasons. You're not fighting for your life [in training camp]. He can get in there and get a rhythm going . . . as opposed to being thrown into the fire. I said it last year and I guess I'll say it this year: [An injury is] an opportunity for somebody else."
Boucher aims to run with it.
Last year, when he was handed the starting reins after Ray Emery went down, Boucher cut a finger during a game and Leighton took over to go 10-0-2 in his first 12 games.
When Boucher finally entered for an injured Leighton in mid-March, he carried the team all the way to the second round of the playoffs against Boston before succumbing to a double knee injury.
"Last year was tough, because I hadn't played in 3 months, and it was in the critical part of the season," Boucher said. "There's really no time to shake off the rust. Last year, I had issues where I wasn't 100 percent. I feel like I'm ready. I'm healthy. I feel like I've had a good camp."
The job figures to be Boucher's for at least a month, during which time Holmgren hopes Leighton's injury will heal. The Flyers tried this approach with defenseman Ryan Parent's bulging disk last year, which ultimately needed surgery during the season.
Leighton declined to comment yesterday.
"My personal experience with bulging disks is they go back in eventually," Holmgren said. "It's not a herniated disk, which is a bigger issue, in and of itself. It's a bulging disk, and we think, with strengthening and rehab and time, that he'll be OK. Right now, we think that time period is a month just to let everything settle down."
Russian phenom Sergei Bobrovsky, 22, who has posted a 1.57 goals-against average and .940 save percentage in 115 minutes of preseason work, could enter the season as an unlikely backup.
But Holmgren was quick to assert that Johan Backlund, who started one game for the Flyers last season, has yet to enter into the goaltending equation. Backlund, 29, has missed all of training camp, recovering from offseason hip surgery.
Backlund finally will get to test that hip in at least one of the Flyers' two preseason games this weekend, barring any last-minute setbacks.
Holmgren said the financial implications of the backup's role - considering Bobrovsky will earn $200,000 more than Leighton's $1.55 million this season, if he's on the roster - do not make a difference, since $875,000 of that is performance bonus-based, which the Flyers could defer to next season.
"I don't think finances are an issue," Holmgren said. "Whatever we decide, either way, it will work."
Bill Guerin missed the third period with a minor cut on his elbow . . . Jeff Carter and Nikolai Zherdev scored for the Flyers, who held a 2-1 lead with 5 minutes to play . . . Danny Briere has been sidelined with a severe cold and sore throat, according to Paul Holmgren. Briere has skated briefly on his own each of the last 2 days . . . Last night's notable scratches included Dan Carcillo, Andreas Nodl, Darroll Powe, Andrej Meszaros, Matt Walker and Kimmo Timonen. Ville Leino (hip) and Blair Betts (shoulder/knee) have been fully cleared, but did not skate last night. Timonen has sat out the last four preseason games. *
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