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Atlantic: Flyers up to 6 goalies for the season

by Phil Coffey
The way things are going for Philadelphia Flyers' goaltenders this season, chances are the next time your phone rings it might be GM Paul Holmgren asking if you're available.

But the injury problems are no laughing matter for Holmgren and the Flyers, who enjoyed a rare laugher Sunday night, routing New Jersey 5-1.

In that game, Carter Hutton dressed as the backup to Brian Boucher and became the sixth goalie for the Flyers this season. The previous rookie backup, Johan Backlund, injured his groin in Saturday's loss to the Penguins and was replaced by Boucher. Another rookie, Jeremy Duchesne, dressed as a backup for a couple games after Michael Leighton was lost to an ankle sprain. And Leighton, who was 16-5-2 this season, was picked up on waivers after Ray Emery was injured. Emery was subsequently lost for the season after hip surgery.

Holmgren told the Delaware Country Times that the club has explored other options in adding a more experienced goalie, but nothing has worked out yet.

One name being reported in the Philadelphia media was former Flyer Robert Esche. He's played for SKA Saint Petersburg in Russia the past two seasons. This past year he was 29-7-5 with a 2.07 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage.

"We went through a lot of different options," Holmgren said. "We won't be naming names, but I will tell you we explored every option.

"Some of the players we looked into and talked to just for whatever reason can't do it. It might be because they're playing (in Europe), which is the obvious one, but we have some guys we talked to that just, the team they're playing with just won't let them out (of their contract) right now. We explored a lot of different options."

Sunday's win against New Jersey stopped the bleeding of a five-game losing streak for the Flyers, who have been dipping perilously close to the eighth seed in the East. The win moved them back into a tie with Montreal, two points ahead of eighth-seeded Boston.

Another positive for the Flyers is they have owned New Jersey this season. Sunday's lopsided win gave Philadelphia a 5-1-0 mark in the season series with the Devils.

Coach Peter Laviolette praised captain Mike Richards for calling a meeting before the game against Jersey and getting the team to focus on the job at hand, rather than brood over the recent struggles and the playoff picture.

"He met with them and he told them to focus on just this game, not to worry about four points or four wins, or 10 points, or whatever," Laviolette told reporters. "That was the message that was delivered, and it was delivered by Mike Richards."

"It was just leaders getting together and stepping up and saying that I think everyone was focusing on the big picture," Richards said. "You kind of get lost in the mix of things sometimes."

"We played with a lot more grit, a lot more determination," Chris Pronger said. "Hopefully that's a sign that we understand what we need to do to be successful. We did a lot better job of getting to the net (to set up the defensemen goals), creating traffic, tips and screens. It was good for our team to get some production out of the defense."

Pens are in, Sid scoring -- The Penguins clinched a playoff berth in Saturday's win against the Flyers, but perhaps better news came in Sunday's shootout win against Toronto that saw Sidney Crosby get rolling offensively.

Crosby scored 2 goals, giving him 47 for the season, one more than Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead, and also scored his eighth shootout goal to lift the Pens. Crosby had gone six games without a goal.

Maple Leafs goalie J.S. Giguere had the line of the game about facing Crosby in the shootout.

"I went to the bench to ask for advice on what he likes to do on shootouts," Giguere said. "I got eight different answers. I guess he's just that good."

Judging from the comments of Penguins GM Ray Shero after Saturday's win against the Flyers put Pittsburgh into the playoffs, he wasn't terribly worried about getting in.

"I know the sky is falling, but we've lost three games out of the last 17 in regulation," Shero told Rob Rossi Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

"I know we have a pretty good team," Shero said. "We won last year, and all those guys contributed mightily to it. We've got seven more games to go before the playoffs (now six), and we want to start playing our best hockey headed into the playoffs, but for the most part I think most teams would take three regulation losses in 17 games of hockey."

And the Pens are getting healthier. Defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who has missed three games with an illness is close to returning. As for center Evgeni Malkin, coach Dan Bylsma said the Penguins are erring on the side of caution with his bruised foot. Malkin has sat out five straight.

"I expect Gonch to be getting healthy very soon. Geno is ... we're more apt to make sure this is 100 percent than put him out there in a boot and skate when it's not 100 percent. I hope he's getting better and I think he's getting better, and we'll see him back on the ice in the next couple of days. He's possible (to play) Wednesday, but we're not going to put him back if it's in-one and out-one situations."

We stunk, move on -- The New Jersey Devils realized they threw up a stinker in Philadelphia on Sunday night in a lopsided 5-1 loss that gave the Flyers a 5-1-0 win in the season series.

What to do now? Martin Brodeur told reports the solution is learn a lesson and move on.

"It's a bit like what you have to do in the playoffs," Brodeur said. "You have to forget about certain games. We've been playing well. We had our chances in the second period on the power play to get back in the game and nothing wanted to go in for us. It's a game that you've just got to turn the page and move on to another tough match-up against another team that's fighting for their lives."

The Devils have clinched a playoff berth and trail the Penguins by two points, with a game in hand, for the top spot in the Atlantic Division.

"They've owned us pretty good," New Jersey's Jamie Langenbrunner said of the season series against the Flyers. "It's tough to understand why those things happen: us beating Pittsburgh (6-0), Pittsburgh beating these guys (5-1 for the season), these guys beating us. For whatever reason, we have not played well against these guys or they have played well against us. It's one or the other."

Another sobering stat for New Jersey was it dropped their recent record away from home to 2-8-2.

"We showed we can play well on the road [in Montreal on Saturday]," Langenbrunner told Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. "We had a real solid game, we did a lot of good things, really controlled the play I felt. So, we have that ability. It's just that we've got to get it out there more often.

"It has been an issue," Langenbrunner admitted. "I think at home we play with a little bit more of an edge to our game where we're getting guys to the net and doing certain things. On the road, maybe we've been on the outside waiting for something to happen and we've go to continue to do those things."

Rangers can't save Lundqvist -- Henrik Lundqvist was an unhappy guy after Saturday's 3-2 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs, decidedly unhappy with his play in a big game for the Rangers.

He was especially unhappy with a softie allowed to Tomas Kaberle with 3:35 left that tied the game

"(Bleeping) terrible goal. I'm really (bleeping ticked) right now," Lundqvist said amidst the occasional expletive to accent the point. "I timed it bad, tried to kick it to the side, and it took a roll and hit my skate and went in.

"For all the chances they had, for them to tie it on a shot like that. ..." Lundqvist lamented to reporters. "I'm happy the way I played the whole game except for that mistake. It cost us."

Coach John Tortorella noted that scoring a third goal against a non-playoff team like the Leafs is what cost the Rangers, not Lundqvist.

"Hank's going to be fine," Tortorella said. "He's going to be the reason why we get in.

"Those types of games, and we've been through 'em before,  you don't get that third one, it just leaves that door open for what happened," Tortorella said.

New York's top scorer, Marian Gaborik, didn't impress Tortorella and was benched for a long stretch in the second period. Gaborik has been pointless in eight of the Rangers' last 12 games.

DiPietro done for season -- Injuries are piling up for the Islanders, with the news Rick DiPietro is being shut down for the remainder of the season and a growing number of defensemen thinning out the blue line.

First, DiPietro. He was placed on the injured list retroactive to Feb. 28 due to swelling in his knee. He last played in a 3-1 loss to Carolina on Feb. 6.

"We feel that working with our goaltending coaches this summer, Rick will return to top form," GM Garth Snow told Newsday.

DiPietro was 2-5-0 with a .900 save percentage and 2.60 goals-against average in eight games this season.

"It's not a wasted year," DiPietro said. "I proved I could come back and play in the NHL. I know I can play. I've already proved it. I'm in the best shape I've ever been in."

The same can't be said of the Islanders' defense, which has taken a pounding. Unheralded players like Mark Flood, Anton Klementyev, Dustin Kohn and Dylan Reese recently have seen action with regulars like Bruno Gervais sidelined.

Saturday night in a 4-3 overtime win against Columbus, only Mark Streit and Freddy Meyer remained of the defensive contingent that started the season for the Islanders.

"Obviously, we have some defensemen who are hurt and out of the lineup," Snow said, "but this is a great opportunity for some of our young players to get experience in this push down the stretch."

Around the Atlantic -- Devils GM Lou Lamoriello attended a ceremony Friday in Stanstead, Quebec, in which it was announced that a new arena will be named after Pat Burns, who is battling lung cancer. "Pat was excellent," Lamoriello told Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger. "The Prime Minister (Stephen Harper) was excellent. Everything was done in good taste. You just wish you could do something," Lamoriello said of the frail Burns. "You wish you could do more. It was very well done, certainly a difficult day because of Pat's situation. The way he handled it and the way the Prime Minister handled it and the city was just exceptional. Very touching. There were children there from the college and a lot of people from that area." ... Penguins forward Craig Adams scored his 100th career point on forward Tyler Kennedy's goal in the first period Sunday. "Luckily for me, that's not a huge part of my game or otherwise it wouldn't reflect very well," Adams told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review after finishing his 105th consecutive regular-season game without a goal. ... Flyers goalie Johan Backlund described his NHL debut Saturday in Pittsburgh as a dream come true wrapped inside a nightmare. He played well in two periods, but reinjured his left groin as was forced out of the third period in the 4-1 loss.  "A couple of minutes before their first goal, I was sliding to my left and I heard something snap there," Backlund said. "I wanted to continue and I had so much adrenaline that it felt OK, but it got worse and worse. I wanted to finish the game, but the second period it got pretty bad, so we made a decision to switch after the second period." ... Martin Brodeur on making the playoffs again "It doesn't get old because it's tough. The League is competitive. I've been here for all 13 of them. I've seen a lot of guys come and go, but the attitude is the same. It starts from our boss upstairs, Lou (Lamoriello), down to the guy who plays the least amount of minutes." ... Injuries are beginning to pile up for the Rangers. Ryan Callahan (right leg) and Brian Boyle (left foot) didn't play against Toronto and Sean Avery appeared to suffer a knee injury in the second period.

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