By Michael Rushton, NHL Contributor - Archive - Email
Bryz injury could put a chip in Flyers' playoff run
Even if the injury isn't serious, there is still some cause for concern.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Throughout March, Ilya Bryzgalov has looked like a goaltender who could carry his Philadelphia Flyers through a deep run in the upcoming postseason.

Hence, that collective gasp that echoed through Philadelphia on Tuesday came when general manager Paul Holmgren announced his $51 million goaltender has a chip fracture in his right foot.

Holmgren was quick to calm fears, saying he didn't believe the injury to be serious and that Bryzgalov could be back in game action by the weekend. Sergei Bobrovsky, who has played just once since Feb. 18, will start Thursday's game versus Toronto.

"Ilya wasn't going to play on Thursday anyway," Holmgren said. "We're going to just leave him back and continue to get him treatment. We don't think this is a serious injury."

The quirky Russian suffered his ailment during warm-ups before a 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, one in which Bryzgalov allowed four goals on 14 shots for only his second setback this month. The 31-year-old was hurt when he took a shot off an exposed part of his foot, but Holmgren didn't think it affected his play in net versus Tampa Bay.

"We had the X-ray, Ilya wanted to play," Holmgren said. "To be honest with you, I knew what was going on. I watched the game and I didn't see any issues. The goals (the Lightning) scored were good goals."

Even if the injury isn't serious, there is still some cause for concern. Hockey goaltenders are a streaky bunch and nobody has been hotter than Bryzgalov. This month, he has gone 10-2-1 in 13 games with a 1.43 goals against average and .947 save percentage. Four of his six shutouts on the season have come in March, including three straight early in the month that helped Bryz post a club-record scoreless streak of 249 minutes, 43 seconds.

Flyers goaltenders in 2010-11 playoffs
Games Starts Record GAA Save %
Brian Boucher 9 7 4-4 3.13 .904
Sergei Bobrovsky 6 3 0-2 3.23 .877
Michael Leighton 2 1 0-1 3.43 .862

Now, the Flyers will have to hope that this time off and any lingering issues from the injury won't knock Bryzgalov off his game.

There is also the possibility of rushing Bryzgalov back too soon. With the Flyers in a battle for the fourth seed -- and home-ice advantage in the first round of the postseason -- there may be a sense of urgency to get the No. 1 netminder back on the ice as quickly as possible. That could lead to further problems for Bryzgalov if he does not heal properly.

Holmgren said he thinks Bryzgalov could be back by this weekend. Philadelphia hosts Ottawa on Saturday and then visits Pittsburgh, the current holder of fourth place in the Eastern Conference, in a big matchup Sunday afternoon in a nationally televised encounter.

Only Bryzgalov will know for sure, but Holmgren isn't worried about the upcoming time off impacting his play.

"No, I don't think so," Holmgren said. "He's played a lot over the last little while here. He's missed days in practice and he hasn't lost his rhythm."

Holmgren better hope that remains the case. After Philadelphia used three different netminders, including Bobrovsky, in last year's disappointing postseason which ended with a second-round sweep at the hands of the eventual- champion Boston Bruins, Holmgren broke the bank to add Bryzgalov.

Set to hit free agency, Holmgren gambled by first trading for Bryzgalov's rights from his former Phoenix Coyotes employer and then inked him to a nine- year deal. That move looked disastrous for the better part of the season until Bryzgalov caught fire in March.

With his inconsistency and benching for the Winter Classic behind him, Bryzgalov was making Holmgren once again look like King Midas. This latest issue, though, could have the Flyers scrambling again this postseason.

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