Walker doesn't play for Flyers, for some reason
BOSTON - Matt Walker was one of the Flyers' feel-good stories of training camp. Walker, 31, played in just four games last season after being acquired from Tampa Bay in the trade for Simon Gagne, spending most of the year shuttling back and forth between the operating table and Glens Falls, N.Y., rehabbing with the Phantoms.
BOSTON - Matt Walker was one of the Flyers' feel-good stories of training camp.
Walker, 31, played in just four games last season after being acquired from Tampa Bay in the trade for Simon Gagne, spending most of the year shuttling back and forth between the operating table and Glens Falls, N.Y., rehabbing with the Phantoms.
He underwent separate surgeries on both sides of his hip to repair torn labrum and another procedure on his back.
Walker said there were days he could not get out of bed without worrying how he could put his shoes and socks on, let alone his equipment. He had little interaction with his teammates, often rehabbing at the rink alone at 6 o'clock in the morning.
With his $1.7 million paycheck on a salary cap-strapped team, Walker was a longshot to make the Flyers out of camp - even with a heaping of praise from both coach Peter Laviolette and general manager Paul Holmgren.
Yet, Walker was in the Flyers' locker room on Wednesday, telling reporters that he had beaten the odds and would be in the Opening Night lineup last night in Boston.
Except, when the Flyers took to the ice last night, Walker was listed as a scratch on the lineup card. And the circumstances were, ahem, interesting.
Walker did not participate in the morning skate. When asked, Laviolette directed all questions about Walker to Holmgren, who handles all comment regarding injury.
Holmgren said Walker "wanted to try and do some other things." Walker did not arrive at the rink with the rest of his teammates, and instead appeared after 5:30 p.m., beyond the pregame media availability. He did, however, participate in the pregame skate.
Andreas Lilja, signed as a free agent this summer, took Walker's place in the lineup.
A team source says Walker suffered a "slight" groin strain in last Saturday's preseason game in New Jersey. Versus television analyst Pierre McGuire said on air that Walker is suffering from a "nasty virus."
So, which is it? If he was sick and quarantined from the team, why would he participate in the pregame skate and dress in the locker room?
"He is fine," Holmgren said.
Walker cleared waivers on Wednesday, giving the Flyers up to 10 games or 30 days to decide where to place him before having to go through the waiver process again. Lilja, meanwhile, apparently won the Opening Night battle for the sixth defensive spot - vacated by Sean O'Donnell, who signed in Chicago - by default.
"I think when he plays, he'll bring some stability back there," Holmgren said of Lilja. "I think he got better as it went along. He's a good penalty killer, he won't play on the power play, but he's a good player and he's played on winning teams in the past."
Matt Read said he didn't have a tough time getting to sleep on Wednesday night in Boston, just hours before he was set to make his NHL rookie debut.
"It was actually more nerve-racking for me to play in my first preseason game," Read said. "Now, I think I have an idea of what it's all about."
That's a good thing for Peter Laviolette, who said he spent a lot of time talking to his three rookies - Read, Sean Couturier, and Zac Rinaldo - who made their regular-season debuts last night.
"They've proven themselves at camp that they are good hockey players," Laviolette said. "They have been put in certain roles and where we're counting on them to play, and we will keep working with them and teaching them. And if they are good, they deserve to be here."
Rinaldo was the guilty party in a first-period penalty that set up Boston for a power-play goal. Boston scored on that man advantage with Couturier on the ice.
The last time the Flyers had three rookies in the lineup on Opening Night was Oct. 5, 1993, when Mikael Renberg, Stewart Malgunas and Jason Bowen suited up against Pittsburgh. Jaromir Jagr, then 21, picked up an assist in that game and current Flyers assistant coach Joe Mullen scored for the Penguins.
Jakub Voracek donned a new number, switching from No. 9, which he wore in the preseason, to No. 93, which he wore for three seasons in Columbus. Voracek said his father asked him to make the change.
Voracek is the third Flyer to wear No. 93, succeeding Nik Zherdev and Peter Nedved.
"Besides, if I wore 9, I would have to be an elite goal-scorer," Voracek said.
The swap worked. After going scoreless in the preseason, he gave the Flyers a 2-1 lead, which held up.
After being claimed by Montreal on waivers on Wednesday, former Flyer Blair Betts missed the Canadiens' opener in Toronto last night with what is being called a "lower-body injury." Since Betts had yet to practice with his new team, the injury had to occur with the Flyers. He was seen walking around the Flyers' practice facility with a bag of ice and his left knee heavily wrapped.