Flyers set to face Bryzgalov in Edmonton

Ex-Flyer Ilya Bryzgalov is the Oilers' goalie.
Ex-Flyer Ilya Bryzgalov is the Oilers' goalie. (         Canadian Press)
Posted: December 28, 2013

The Flyers start a six-game road trip Saturday night in Edmonton and are expected to face their colorful, controversial former teammate, goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.

"It's going to be weird," center Claude Giroux said with a smile. "We'll see" how it goes.

"It's always a little different facing a former teammate, whether it's Bryz or whoever it is," defenseman Braydon Coburn said. "It's just part of this business . . . and you try to come out on the right side of it, competitively."

Edmonton signed Bryzgalov, 33, as a free agent in November, giving him a one-year deal for $2 million. Bryzgalov, who missed two weeks earlier this month because of a concussion, is 2-4 in eight games (two no-decisions) with a 2.80 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.

In late June, the Flyers bought out the remaining seven years of his nine-year, $51 million contract. The Flyers will have to pay him $23 million (two-thirds of the $34 million left) over 14 years, or $1.6 million per year.

Bryzgalov had two uneven seasons with the Flyers, and general manager Paul Holmgren called the contract a "costly mistake" and said the buyout was done to give the team cap flexibility.

After Bryzgalov's first season with the Flyers, Holmgren made it clear he wanted the wannabe cosmonaut to focus more on hockey and less on some of his bizarre comments.

"His job is to stop pucks and help us win games," Holmgren said at the time in a good-natured tone. "It's not Comedy Central."

But Bryzgalov seemed to be imploring the Flyers to buy him out by continuing to be a distraction after last season.

In an interview with the Russian sports site Championat, he was quoted as saying that he disliked the city of Philadelphia and that he admired Joseph Stalin, whose brutal reign in the Soviet Union saw millions die over more than two decades.

Bryzgalov has refused to comment, so it is not known whether those statements were lost in translation into English.

Winger Jake Voracek said facing Bryzgalov was a bigger story for the media "than it is for us."

Voracek, who is riding a career-high eight-game points streak, said Bryzgalov "had a little different personality than most of the people, but he was nice to everybody." He added that the Flyers have "moved on" and are happy to be playing in front of Steve Mason and Ray Emery.

In two seasons with the Flyers, Bryzgalov had a 52-33-10 record, a 2.61 goals-against average, and a .905 save percentage. In the playoffs, he was 5-6 with a 3.46 GAA and .887 save percentage.

"Our team struggled last year, but he had flashes of brilliance," Coburn said. "One year in March, he was unbelievable, and it's just too bad it didn't work out."

In addition to Edmonton, the Flyers will face Vancouver, Calgary, Colorado, Phoenix, and New Jersey on their road trip.

"It's a way to kind of start the year in a good rhythm," said Giroux, who has a seven-game points streak, a career best. "There are going to be some big games for us, and we have to make sure we're ready to go every game."

The Flyers have won nine straight at the Wells Fargo Center, but they have lost five in a row (0-3-2) on the road.

"We've got to take this show on the road," winger Scott Hartnell said after Monday's 4-1 home victory over Minnesota. "We can't be homers and expect to make the playoffs and take the next step. We've got to take what we do at home and do it on the road."


scarchidi@phillynews.com

@BroadStBull

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