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Bryzgalov aiming for 40 wins with Flyers

by Mike G. Morreale /

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Perhaps it's appropriate that Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov was given jersey No. 30 by general manager Paul Holmgren during a news conference introducing him to the local media Thursday at the team's practice facility.
Fact is, the Flyers haven't had a goalie win 30 games since Martin Biron did it in 2007-08. On top of that, not since John Vanbiesbrouck in 1998-99 has a goalie started at least 60 regular-season games for the Flyers.

Encouraged by Pronger's progress

VOORHEES, N.J. -- In addition to introducing goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to the media on Thursday at the Flyers SkateZone, GM Paul Holmgren provided an update on defenseman Chris Pronger.
While Pronger is not expected to be ready for the start of training camp on Sept. 16, Holmgren said the 36-year-old defenseman is progressing nicely following back surgery in May. It was Pronger's fourth major procedure in a year's time, following knee surgery last August -- which kept him out of training camp and the first two games of 2010-11 -- foot surgery in December and hand surgery in March.
"Pronger is going to New York (on Friday) to see (orthopedic surgeon) Dr. Frank Cammisa, who performed his back surgery," Holmgren said. "We anticipate he'll get the full go-ahead to do everything. Chris feels great and I think tomorrow is just a formality.
"He's been working out, but he may be a little bit behind of where he would be if he didn't have to deal with what he went through. We anticipate he'll be ready for the start of the season. Whether he can take part in any preseason games or not is probably a little too soon to tell."
Earlier this month on a conference call with the media, Pronger said the recent surgeries he's undergone have hindered his offseason training regimen -- he would normally have two months of strength training done by this point in the summer.
He is doing everything possible, however, to make certain he's in the lineup for the season opener at TD Garden against the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins on Oct. 6.

--Mike G. Morreale
After inking a nine-year deal worth $51 million with the Flyers on June 23, one would expect Bryzgalov is a prime candidate to produce both. He's looking forward to the challenge.
"When you play a lot, you feel confident about your game," Bryzgalov said. "If they need me to play 70 games, I'll play 70. If they need me to play 50, I'll play 50. So it all depends on the coach and management … whatever they need."
Since his first full season in the NHL in 2005-06, Bryzgalov has averaged 54 appearances per season. After joining the Phoenix Coyotes in 2007-08, he  averaged 64 games, 32.5 victories and a 2.54 goals-against average.
When asked if he anticipates Bryzgalov starting 60-plus games this season, Holmgren seemed noncommittal.
"We'll see how it goes," Holmgren said. "His track record speaks for itself … he plays 60 or above. I don't know if we need him to play that many, but we'll see. If he's playing good and looks fresh, then that's what we brought him in for."
Bryzgalov, who was his usual jovial self during the question-and-answer session with the media, certainly knows how to approach a full 82-game slate.
"You have to manage the practice time with the game time," he said. "When you feel a little bit exhausted and tired, physically and mentally, you need to take a break because it's tough to practice every day and play almost every game. You have to take breaks once in a while. Maybe stay off the ice some days and workout and stretch with the trainers."
The 31-year-old Russian appeared in 68 games last season with the Coyotes and went 36-20-10 with a 2.48 GAA, a .921 save percentage and seven shutouts. That followed a season in which he was a Vezina Trophy finalist after going 42-20-6 with a 2.29 GAA and .920 save percentage in 69 games.
Bryzgalov said he hopes to approach 40 victories in his first season in the City of Brotherly Love.
"I hope so," he said. "A couple of years ago I won 40 games, and I'd hope to reach that total. This is a new organization, a new life and there are new expectations."

Bryzgalov said he doesn't concern himself with the pressure associated with being the No. 1 goalie in a huge hockey market.
"I never put the pressure on myself," he said. "I know my job and what I have to do and I think the pressure put on players is from (the media). You create the pressure on us and create pressure around the team. I think I can handle it. I know what I have to do and when I play bad I know what I have to do to fix it."
Philadelphia acquired the negotiating rights to Bryzgalov from Phoenix on June 7 in exchange for left wing Matt Clackson, a third-round draft pick in 2012 and a conditional pick. Holmgren signed him to the nine-year contract just hours after sending captain Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings and Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Bryzgalov is delighted with his new surroundings.
"Philadelphia is a team rich with history and I've been in the League eight years and every year I see this team has good players on the roster and always plays in the playoffs," Bryzgalov said. "Two years ago, the team reached the Final and they missed a little bit. The goal here is to win. I've been around and when I played in Russia, I followed the hockey too and saw Philadelphia was one of the top teams."
More than anything else, the Flyers are counting on Bryzgalov to provide consistency between the pipes.
"He's definitely an exciting guy to have on your team," forward James van Riemsdyk told "You see what he did in Phoenix the last few years … he was basically their backbone in there. He'll be a real stabilizing presence in the net for us and he's one of the best goalies in the game so when you can add a guy like that to your team it can only help."
Despite 106 points and an Atlantic Division title in 2010-11, Philadelphia barely survived a seven-game series against the Buffalo Sabres in Round 1 of the playoffs before being swept by the Boston Bruins in Round 2 while using a three-goalie rotation of Sergei Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton.  The Flyers finished last among the eight survivors in the first round with a 3.46 GAA; they were 11th in the regular season (2.63 GAA). On top of that, Philadelphia was the only team to not post a shutout in 2010-11; they had none in 93 games, including playoffs.
Bryzgalov reached the second round of the playoffs as a starting goaltender in 2006 with the Anaheim Ducks and was the backup when the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007. He is 12-13 with a 2.55 GAA and .917 save percentage in 27 career playoff matches.

"Ilya is one of the top, upper-echelon goalies in the League," Holmgren said. "In bringing him in, he does give us stability. We still have young guys we think a world of who can grow with our team. We'll see how that goes. By adding Ilya and maintaining the defense we had last year, we think we're in a good spot."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale
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