LOS ANGELES - When Claude Giroux learned that goalie Michael Leighton would be making his Flyers season debut Thursday night in Los Angeles, the gifted forward shook his head with worry.
Leighton got the nod over Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher.
"Well, he's not as good as Bob and Boosh, so we have to play better defensively," Giroux deadpanned.
He paused and laughed, his way of saying he was joking.
"Our goalies have been playing great," he said, "and you can ask any guy on the team - it doesn't make a difference to us who's playing. We have confidence in all three goalies."
Leighton was making his first regular-season appearance with the Flyers since he allowed two soft goals - including Patrick Kane's overtime winner - in the decisive sixth game of last season's Stanley Cup Finals against Chicago.
After being plucked off reentry waivers from Carolina last year, Leighton had a strong regular season and contributed three shutouts against Montreal in the conference finals.
Leighton played in two preseason games in September and had back surgery on Oct. 11. He rehabbed briefly with the Phantoms and has been restlessly waiting to play for the Flyers.
On Thursday, he got that chance.
"He looks ready, and he's healthy, and we have an opportunity to get him back in there," coach Peter Laviolette said before the game.
Laviolette added that one of the reasons Leighton was in the lineup was his strong 2009-10 season.
"He was a big key for us last year, and we're excited to have him back," Giroux said, "and hopefully we can get back on the right track again."
The Flyers had lost their previous two games, getting outscored by a combined 11-2.
Because Leighton had played four games with the Phantoms and had been practicing with the Flyers, "conditioning shouldn't be a problem," goalie coach Jeff Reese said before the opening face-off. "It's just a matter of the pace - everything is a little quicker - and hopefully the team comes up with a good effort, and he gets some good shots early and gets back into the game right away. Hopefully, you make some saves early and gain your confidence."
The Flyers might be showcasing Leighton for a deal. He has a two-year contract for $3.1 million.
"Right now, we have three goaltenders. It's not impossible to manage," Laviolette said.
Bobrovsky (15-5-3 record, 2.46 goals-against average) has started just two of the last eight games, and his confidence level might have taken a hit.
Stevens faces ex-team
First-year Kings assistant John Stevens, fired as the Flyers' head coach a year ago, has adapted to his new role on a staff that includes three men with Philadelphia ties: head coach Terry Murray, general manager Dean Lombardi, and assistant GM Ron Hextall.
"Professionally, it's been very easy," Stevens said before the game. "The big adjustment has been with my family" being so far away.
His wife and two teenage sons still live in Washington Township; they will move to California after the school year.
"We thought it was in the best interest to wait a year, get organized, and find out about the schools," he said. "They've been out here three times already, and we kind of worked it out so they get out once a month, and we take advantage of Skype, so we have the video chats."
As far as facing the Flyers, Stevens said: "With a lot of the faces I'm familiar with over there, there is a little bit of emotion involved, but really it comes down to preparing for a very tough opponent."
Defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who was nursing a sore left leg and ankle, was in the Flyers' lineup. Defenseman Erik Gustafsson, promoted from the Phantoms in case Timonen couldn't play, was a healthy scratch. . . . Former Flyers defenseman Ryan Parent was placed on waivers by Vancouver, which is trying to send him to the minors. The Flyers have no interest, a club official said.
- Sam Carchidi