Michael Leighton didn’t think his back pain he experienced off the ice from last year’s playoffs was anything serious.
“I kind of dealt with it a little bit in playoffs last year,” said Leighton. “It wasn’t bothering me when I was playing, it was just more of an off-ice thing, when I was stretching it was stiff. I did deal with it in the summer. I got some tests done and it wasn’t very severe in the summer. All through training camp it was still there, but it didn’t bother me on the ice so I just kind of worked through it. I was told to do exercises and work through it. Then in that Toronto game it kind of jumped to a new level and totally did different things. I’m obviously disappointed with the way it went.”
Disappointed to say the least, but it’s what he and the organization feels is the right move to make for the long-term.
|Michael Leighton appeared in just two preseason games for the Flyers before succumbing to a back injury on Sept. 28. (photo: Len Redkoles) |
That long term is going to last six-to-eight weeks according to Flyers GM Paul Holmgren, who broke the news that his star goaltender from last season will be sidelined earlier today.
“We didn’t really know that much about it until he had an issue in the summertime, and we’re still not certain it was related to this,” said Holmgren via conference call. “It is what it is now. What’s cropped up here lately is the weakness in his legs. The doctors just want to get ahead of it, and they think this is the best way to deal with it right now. So that’s what we’re doing.”
Leighton will have back surgery on Monday, Oct. 11 at Methodist in Philadelphia and the procedure is officially called a partial discectomy performed by Dr. Alex Vacarro.
Flyers fans might remember former defenseman Ryan Parent, who had the same exact procedure done last season and is someone Leighton even contacted after making his decision.
“This is very similar, if not the same surgery he had last year,” said Leighton. “He waited a little longer to have it done, he waited to let it heal and it never went away. He probably had an extra three or four weeks on me. I’m just going in and getting it done sooner, but it’s the same surgery that he had.”
Initially on Sept. 28, it was announced that the 29-year-old goaltender was suffering from a bulging disk in his lower back and he would sidelined for approximately one month.
With the season-opening rosters turned into the League on Wednesday, prior to yesterday’s game Leighton had been placed on long-term injured reserve. Meaning essentially his salary will not count against the Flyers’ salary cap.
“He’s a guy that wanted to come in here healthy and get an opportunity to play a full year and right now that’s on hold until we get him healthy,” said Laviolette. “Anytime you lose players I think it’s a difficult thing, but like I said, it’s part of the game. You deal with it and it’s an opportunity for others to step up.” (WATCH LAVIOLETTE
“It’s a tough break for Michael,” added goaltending coach Jeff Reese. “I know he worked hard this summer. He took some giant steps last year and earned himself a nice contract and helped get us to the Final. I know how disappointed he is, but he has to stay positive.”
Following a conference call with Leighton, staying positive is something that doesn’t seem like a problem.
“Obviously I want to get back and jump right back in there and play a lot of games,” added Leighton. “That was kind of my goal this year was to play a lot. Obviously this injury has set me back from my goal, but it doesn’t mean that when I get back I don’t’ want to play. So I’m jumping right back in there and I want to play the games.”
As for the present, the Flyers will take on the Blues on Saturday in St. Louis in an 8 p.m. ET start time on CSN.
Laviolette has not officially confirmed who will be his starting goaltender, but regardless, the Flyers will be looking to grab a 2-0-0 record on the road for the second consecutive year, before they return home to the Wells Fargo Center to take on the Avalanche in their home opener o Monday, Oct. 11 presented by Ransome International.