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Bobrovsky becoming more comfortable in America

by Adam Kimelman /
VOORHEES, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky looks to be about the same 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds he measured when he arrived here for training camp last year. However, the player currently getting in shape for training camp has grown immeasurably entering his second season in the National Hockey League.

Bobrovsky told he's more confident on and off the ice, especially in one very important area -- his grasp of the English language.

"Yes, I think so," he said in his first extensive English-language interview when asked about his comfort level with the language. "I'm one year being here and I'm studying English, learning English."

He also said he learned a great deal about the North American style of play after one season. Not that he seemed to have much of a learning curve -- he stopped 29 of 31 shots in a 3-2 Flyers win on opening night in Pittsburgh, ruining the opening of the Consol Energy Center. He had a six-game winning streak and started the season 11-2-1.


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As the season wore on, he emerged as the team's No. 1 goaltender and finished 28-13-8 with a 2.59 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage in 54 games. Bobrovsky finished seventh in the Calder Trophy voting, and second among goalies to Chicago's Corey Crawford.

"I learned lots of things, lots of new hockey," Bobrovsky said. "It's different hockey between the KHL and NHL. Now I know what it means to play 82 games."
Bobrovsky earned the opening-night playoff start against the Buffalo Sabres and looked solid in allowed just one goal on 25 shots, but the Flyers couldn't put a puck past Ryan Miller in a 1-0 loss. After that, however, the Flyers' well-known goalie carousel began to spin full force. Bobrovsky was pulled in the first period of Game 2 and remained a healthy scratch until Game 7 of that series, when he returned to serve as Brian Boucher's backup. He replaced Boucher in each of the first three games of the Flyers' second-round series against Boston and allowed three goals on a total of 24 shots. He started Game 4 and allowed three goals on 25 shots as the Flyers fell 5-1.

Bobrovsky said what he'll mostly take from his first taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is the intensity of the games.

"After 82 (regular-season) games, it's a new season, it's the playoffs and it's more pressure," he said. "Everybody forgets about the 82 games and now it's new (playoff) games. It was all new for me. ... I got lots of experience from last season.

"I just think it was an experience for me. I learned something new."

One of the things he learned is how to withstand the rigors of an 82-game season. Bobrovsky said he started skating last July to prepare for the Flyers' rookie development camp -- and didn't really stop skating until the Flyers' playoff run ended. He admitted that he did get tired late last season, both physically and mentally.

"If you're tired in the body, you get tired mentally," he said. "Last season, yes, it was my first (North American) season, and it was tough for me. I don't know about 82 games. You play every day -- almost every day -- and it's hockey, hockey, hockey, lots of hockey. When I was in the KHL, it was a big difference. I'm more experienced now."

That experience has him feeling fresh as he heads into his second training camp.

"Last season I started on the ice in July before rookie camp," he said. "No rest. Now I come on Aug. 25 and now I'm preparing for the season. I start on the ice two months later, and it's a big difference."

There will be lots of differences at this year's training camp as opposed to last year's. Nine of the 20 players who dressed for the final game of last season's playoff run won't be back. Among the new faces is goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who signed a nine-year, $51 million deal.
"I learned lots of things, lots of new hockey. It's different hockey between the KHL and NHL. Now I know what it means to play 82 games." -- Sergei Bobrovsky

However, Bobrovsky said he isn't concerned with anything other than making the team. With Bryzgalov, Bobrovsky and Michael Leighton, the Flyers have three goaltenders with NHL contracts.

"For me, it doesn't matter," he said of the team adding another goaltender. "If not Bryz, it would be somebody different. It's no problem for me."

Bryzgalov, a fellow Russian, is regarded as a workhorse who's played at least 64 games each of the last four seasons, including 69 and 68, respectively, the last two seasons as he helped the Phoenix Coyotes reach the postseason in consecutive seasons.

Bobrovsky said he hasn't spoken extensively with coach Peter Laviolette about expectations for the coming season, especially in regard to how many games he might play.

"We'll see," said Bobrovsky. "I don't know who Bryz, how he speaks, what kind of guy he is, (but) I think we will have (a good partnership)."

Regardless of how many games he does play, he said he has just one thing in mind for the 2011-12 season.

"We have one goal," he said. "(Stanley) Cup."

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