The Ilya Bryzgalov show returns with NHL lockout ended

Hirsute Flyer Scott Hartnell (left) tries to score on goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in practice.
Hirsute Flyer Scott Hartnell (left) tries to score on goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in practice. (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 10, 2013

Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov downplayed the new amnesty buyouts, talked about his adventures as a Russian cosmonaut, and said bearded teammate Scott Hartnell looked like he belonged as the lead character of Cast Away during a far-ranging group interview Tuesday. It was his first day of practice since the NHL lockout ended.

Looking trim and in shape from playing in Russia during the NHL labor battle, Bryzgalov was relaxed and his usual funny self after a one-hour informal workout with 10 of his teammates in Voorhees.

Because the new collective bargaining agreement probably won't be ratified until Saturday, training camps aren't expected to open until Sunday, with the 48-game season likely starting Jan. 19.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette wants Bryzgalov, 32, to shoulder the goaltending load. That's fine with the 6-foot-3, 210-pound goalie.

"I would love to play a lot," he said. "When I played in Phoenix, I played in almost 70 games a year. And I feel great."

He also believes that having spent a year in Philadelphia will help immensely. He had an up-and-down 2011-12 season, finishing with a 2.48 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.

"I understand the philosophy of how it works here - the fans, media, even the management of the team," he said. "I made some notes in my head for myself, and I'm going to follow them."

After a slow start in Russia, where the rinks are much larger than in the NHL, Bryzgalov rebounded and finished with a 2.13 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage in 12 games.

The KHL season had been under way by the time Bryzgalov joined CSKA Moscow.

"I found myself far behind everybody on the team who was in shape. I needed to do lots of workouts," he said. "I was in different speed, a different mode. Game shape is much faster and much quicker, I think. I needed some time to pick it up."

Bryzgalov was in his Haddonfield home Sunday when his 8-year-old-daughter, Valerie, excitedly woke him up at 6 a.m. and told him, simply, "It's over!"

Bryzgalov, wiping the sleep out of his eyes, said, "What's over?"

"The lockout!"

Bryzgalov was a bit skeptical until he turned on the TV and got confirmation of his daughter's good news.

In the new CBA, each team will be permitted two amnesty buyouts before the 2013-14 season. Since Bryzgalov has a hefty contract - he signed a nine-year, $51 million deal before last season - there has been speculation that he will be an amnesty candidate after this season.

Will he and other amnesty candidates have extra motivation to show they deserve to stay with their teams?

"I have no idea. All I have to worry about is to work hard. Give my team a chance to win," he said. "The rest of the stuff is out of my control. I don't have to worry about it.''

At Tuesday's practice, Bryzgalov and his teammates were reunited. Some hadn't seen one another since their season ended May 8.

Bryzgalov took a look at Hartnell and his bushy beard and smiled.

"He's like from the movie Cast Away. We need to buy some ball for him, so he has a best buddy Wilson," referring to Tom Hanks' character in the movie, who is marooned on an island after a plane crash, and tries to keep his sanity by talking to a volleyball he calls Wilson.

Bryzgalov, one of 17 Flyers who played in Europe or the AHL during the lockout, also talked about touring the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center near Moscow last month. He put on a tight-fitting space suit (he had trouble getting in and out of it, and it is a must-see on the Internet) and met some cosmonauts.

A Russian television station (hysterically) filmed Philadelphia's most famous space adventurer.

"They made some program," Bryzgalov said. "They know my interest in astronomy."

Contact Sam Carchidi at Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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