While the 2010-11 regular season is vastly approaching, the injury bug has already hit the Philadelphia Flyers. Yesterday, General Manager Paul Homgren told the media that Michael Leighton will be out for the first month of the season with a lower-back injury, while Ian Laperriere, suffering from causes related to post-concussion syndrome, will be out indefinitely.
Leighton, who just signed a two year contract in the off-season, was all but assured of being the Flyers’ number one goaltender. With Leighton out for the first month of the regular season, the most important position on the team is now in flux. Holmgren is saying there will be no moves to bring in any other goaltenders, so they’ll have to work with what they have.
Veteran goaltender Brian Boucher will most likely get the duty. Boucher was productive last season as he kept the Flyers playoff hopes alive last year by standing tall in the shootout against the Rangers on the final day of the season.
Boucher is a proven goaltender, who can deliver when he’s warmed up. However, he’s also shown stilted play early in the season, and his age and frequent injuries could open the door for a younger, up and coming netminder.
Johan Backlund, 29, is just coming off of hip surgery in the off-season. He’s been cleared to practice and should begin seeing some games in the next week or so. He was expected to get some time playing for the Flyers last season, but a groin injury kept him off the roster.
Backlund might get a chance to back up Boucher for a short time on the big club, but his injuries will probably mean he’ll spend most of the season with the Phantoms.
The biggest surprise this preseason has been Sergei Bobrovsky. The 22 year old Russian goalie was brought over from the KHL without knowing a word of English and his speed and poise in the net has turned heads all over the organization. He’s seen significant playing time due to the injuries, and he hasn’t disappointed.
Bobrovsky’s best game during the preseason was against the Minnesota Wild in which he led the Flyers to a shootout victory by stopping all three shooters. His play has been so spectacular it would be a shame if he didn’t get any regular season time. But once Leighton returns to the lineup, Bobrovsky will most likely return to the AHL.
While Leighton’s loss might be really significant to the Flyers lineup, the loss of Laperriere hurts even more. Lappy has a lot heart and soul and his presence will certainly be missed. But his loss will open up a spot to be had by a youngster.
During the playoffs, forward Andreas Nodl showed he can step in and contribute. Nodl’s offensive game has yet to take off, but his heavy play along the boards and defensive work could fit in perfectly on the fourth line and on the penalty kill.
However all is not lost with the injuries to Laperriere and Leighton. Chris Pronger, Ville Leino, and Blair Betts have all been cleared for contact practices and should be returning to games shortly. In all likelihood, all three should be in the lineup when the Flyers face the Pittsburgh Penguins on opening night.