Ilya Bryzgalov seems different, and that could be better for Flyers

Posted: January 09, 2013

IN MANY ways, Ilya Bryzgalov was the same person on Tuesday that we came to know over the last year, as he held court in the middle of the Flyers' dressing room surrounded by cameras and microphones.

Bryzgalov spoke about his love for outer space, his visit to a Russian cosmonaut training center during the lockout, even his fetal position in a space simulator. He joked about teammate Scott Hartnell's fiery, out-of-control curls and full-length "lockout" beard.

"He looked great, he was beautiful," Bryzgalov said. "He's like from the movie 'Cast Away.' We need to buy a ball for him, his best buddy, Wilson."

But in many ways, Bryzgalov was different. Yes, he was fun in his first interview since last May, but he was also sincere. After a disappointing first impression in Philadelphia, he knows he needs to be better. In a shortened season, the Flyers are likely to go as far as Bryzgalov takes them.

Bryzgalov was 33-16-7 with a 2.48 goals against-average and .909 save percentage in an up-and-down season. He was "lost in the woods" for a time, but he also posted the second-longest shutout streak (249:43) in modern NHL history from March 1-15.

"I had a great experience last year," Bryzgalov said. "I understand lots of things, how it works here. Fans, media, even the management of the team. I made some notes in my head and I'm going to follow them."

He was even willing to calmly address the NHL's new amnesty buyouts. The Flyers have the option to buy two players out of their deals (paying them two-thirds of the remainder) after this 2013 shortened season in order to become cap compliant for next season, and many have targeted Bryzgalov.

"All I have to worry about is to work hard and give my team a chance to win the game," Bryzgalov said. "The rest of that stuff, it's out of my control."

That sincerity and willingness to work and improve has instilled confidence in general manager Paul Holmgren.

"I couldn't be more confident in how he's going to play," Holmgren said on "Daily News Live." "I know all of the conversations that I've had with him prior to Sept. 15 [lockout] and conversations that [goaltending coach] Jeff Reese has had with him.

"He knows what happened last year. He knows the expectation levels here. I think he's going to be great and I'm looking forward to it."

Bryzgalov also has a fresh start with teammates.

"I've talked to a lot of people, they always say your first year after signing a deal as a free agent is the toughest," defenseman Braydon Coburn said. "You're in a new city, playing with huge expectations. I'm excited to see him play."

Bryzgalov will be ready to play when the season opens on Jan. 19 thanks to his time in Russia with CSKA Moscow. His family remained in Haddonfield, N.J., which made his stay a little more difficult, but he rebounded to close out his run with four straight solid starts.

Bryzgalov said he would love to play as much as possible in the condensed campaign, perhaps carrying the Flyers on his back.

"It's going to be jammed, it's going to be crazy," Bryzgalov said. "Every game is going to be more important than when you have 82 games because, if you get on a bad streak, you might find yourself on the bottom and you'll never get out."

Rookie in camp

While no definitive call has been made, Flyers first-round pick Scott Laughton is expected to attend training camp when it opens over the weekend, according to a source. Laughton, 19, was drafted 20th overall last June.

Laughton racked up 32 points in 30 games this season for the OHL's Oshawa Generals. He served a 10-game suspension earlier in the season for a check to the head. Laughton was not selected to Team Canada for the World Junior Championships and did not receive an invitation to its selection camp.

If he attends, Laughton is expected to compete for one of the final wing spots against Eric Wellwood, Zac Rinaldo and Tom Sestito. The Flyers' previous first-round pick, Sean Couturier, made the NHL out of training camp last season.

For a full scouting report on Laughton, visit our Frequent Flyers blog at www.philly.com/frequentflyers.

Briere update

Flyers forward Danny Briere is waiting for the lockout to be "officially" lifted so he can be examined by team doctors for his sprained left wrist. Briere suffered the injury on Dec. 28 in Germany and has not skated since.

"It's tough to put an exact timeframe on it," Briere said. "I haven't seen anyone just yet. It will help to see our doctor, who is used to having guys play professional hockey for a living."

Briere said he did have X-rays and an MRI taken in Germany, which did not reveal damage. He will not be ready for the start of training camp, and a return for the start of the season may be in jeopardy.

Slap shots

The NHL's new CBA is expected to be ratified on Saturday. Training camps will open no later than Sunday, for preparation for the Jan. 19 openers. No schedule information has been released . . . Brayden Schenn, Zac Rinaldo and Eric Wellwood are likely to remain with the Phantoms until the lockout is officially lifted.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: philly.com/FrequentFlyers

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