Flyers' Leighton to miss 6-8 weeks with back surgery

Posted: October 09, 2010

ST. LOUIS - Last June, no more than a few days after the Flyers bowed out of the Stanley Cup finals, goaltender Michael Leighton sat in coach Peter Laviolette's office for the usual exit interviews.

Except Leighton's meeting with Laviolette - one of the men responsible for his renaissance in net - was much more than routine. Leighton's conversation was very emotional.

Leighton thanked his coach for believing in him and promised he would be better if he got another chance to start this season.

That opportunity will have to wait another 2 months - if not longer, should Sergei Bobrovsky or Brian Boucher do well in his vacated spot.

Leighton will have surgery Monday to relieve a herniated disk in his lower back, the Flyers announced yesterday. He will miss at least 6 to 8 weeks. He injured his back in last year's playoff run, when he returned in the second round after missing almost 3 months with a severe high-ankle sprain.

"I first felt it in the playoffs last year," Leighton said. "I gave it time to settle down, and, obviously, it was injured and it never really went away. So when I was working out in the summer and doing activities, it was flaring up a little bit, but nothing to the point where it is now."

Leighton said it did not impact him during the Cup finals. Patrick Kane beat him in overtime to clinch the Cup for the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 6.

His injury could have impacted the Flyers' decision to sign him. Leighton signed a 2-year, $3.1 million extension on June 30.

"Obviously, I'm not happy about this now," general manager Paul Holmgren said, "but we certainly didn't know about this in the summertime, when we were going through the contract negotiations."

Holmgren stopped short of saying Leighton was dishonest, as happened earlier in the summer. Ian Laperriere, who was hit in the face with a puck during the playoffs against New Jersey last April, did not disclose his full postconcussion and vision symptoms to the team's medical staff and he could miss the entire season.

"They all want to play," Holmgren said. "We had this conversation in training camp.  We started out training camp by saying any injury, however slight, please report it, so we can get ahead of the game. It's probably just a hockey player's mentality. They don't think it's that big a deal in their own mind, so they don't say anything about it. There's good and bad to that. Hockey players generally are tough and they play through a lot of crap, and sometimes there's the flip side where it becomes an issue because you didn't say anything."

Leighton said he didn't realize until his second preseason start in Toronto that he would not be able to play with the injury. He said former Flyers defenseman Ryan Parent - who was traded to Toronto by Nashville last week - helped convince him surgery was the right call.

Parent had the same surgery last year, but waited longer to see whether the injury could heal on its own. Leighton didn't want to waste more time.

"I was looking forward to having a good start," he said. "It's a tough decision.  Let's just do it, get it over with and get back into it, and, hopefully, I'll be back soon and get back to where I left off last year."

No killer in Carter

Jeff Carter saw no time on the penalty kill in Thursday's opening-night win against Pittsburgh, an unusual sight for a fixture on the Flyers' kill in recent years.

The Flyers want to protect his surgically repaired foot, which was fractured twice last year as a result of blocked shots. Carter, who said he is fine with the move, could return to the penalty kill later in the season.

"We're easing things in here, just being patient," Laviolette said. "You're certainly in more shot lanes when you're on the PK."

Slap shots

Chris Pronger (knee) is unlikely to play tonight in St. Louis . . . X-rays were negative on Claude Giroux's ankle. *

For more news and analysis, read

Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

http://go.philly.com/frequentflyers. Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.

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