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Flyers confirm Bobrovsky will start, 'Bryz' on bench

by Adam Kimelman
PHILADELPHIA -- Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov informed the media following Sunday's practice at Citizens Bank Park who the team's starting goaltender would be for Monday's game against the New York Rangers.

It won't be him.

Bryzgalov, signed by the Flyers to a nine-year contract during the summer in hopes of stabilizing the team's long-running goaltending issues, announced he would serve as the backup to Sergei Bobrovsky when the puck is dropped for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC). Just after 5 p.m. Sunday, the Flyers confirmed Bobrovsky will be Philadelphia's starter in goal Monday. 

"I have great news and even better news," said Bryzgalov after the Flyers' morning practice. "OK, great news is I'm not playing (Monday), and better news is we have a chance to win the game (Monday)."

Coach Peter Laviolette, though, said no such decision had been made earlier Monday. 

"I have not spoken to the goaltenders yet and have not announced anything yet," he said after practice. "We plan on making an announcement later (Sunday) as to who the starter will be."

"I have great news and even better news. OK, great news is I'm not playing (Monday), and better news is we have a chance to win the game (Monday)." -- Ilya Bryzgalov

Bryzgalov said he received the information from goaltender coach Jeff Reese, not Laviolette.

"We have a roster every day they put out and basically you can see if you're playing or not," said Bryzgalov. "What's written down, and actually my goalie coach, Jeff Reese, he tell me I'm not playing."

Bryzgalov said he didn't talk to Laviolette after seeing his name slide to No. 2 on the depth chart for Monday's game.

"I didn't see the reason why," he said. "He's the head coach. He makes these decisions and he's responsible for results. I can understand him. He probably wants to put the best lineup (on the ice)."

Laviolette said he wasn't sure why Bryzgalov would speak out publicly.

"I don't know," he said. "I haven't spoken to either one of the goaltenders. I plan on speaking to them after I get done with (the media), and we plan on making an announcement before the game."

Bryzgalov said he isn't particularly happy to be sitting out and instead was focusing on the bigger picture.

"Yes," he said when asked if he was disappointed in being the backup. "I'm a human. I'm not made from steel. But it is what it is. I had a good practice today, just like yesterday and two days ago. We just keep moving forward. There's lots of game in front of us, lots of hockey. I heard it was still the main goal in Philadelphia to win the Stanley Cup and prepare for this."

When asked what his mindset would be now, he replied, "Make sure I don't forget my thermos with some nice tea and enjoy the bench."

His teammates are sure Bryzgalov's stay on the bench won't be a long one.


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"I think it might be pretty good for Bryz to maybe get a wake-up call and work on some things and get back to being the goalie that he can be and we all know," said forward Scott Hartnell. "That's why (GM Paul Holmgren) signed him, and he’s going to be good for us. I have a lot of faith in him. He's a good man and a great goalie and he'll be there for us when we need him."

However, Hartnell said Bryzgalov would have to earn his way back into the lineup.

"When Bryz gets in the net, he's got to earn it back," he said. "I don't think it's a No. 1/No. 2 thing. It could be 1A or 1B, whatever you want to call it. He's got to realize he has to get his job back."

Most players said it didn't matter to them who started in the net, but said they wouldn't be surprised if it were Bobrovsky due to his recent strong play.

"I think you look at Peter's patterns about who plays and not, and he usually, if a guy is hot, he plays him," said defenseman Braydon Coburn. "I think this being as big a game as it is, and Bob had a big game in Pittsburgh and kept us in there and we were able to get some goals and he got the win, it makes sense."

"You reward the players who play well, work hard," added defenseman Kimmo Timonen. "It doesn't matter. If it's Winter Classic or whatever, it doesn't matter. It's fair for everybody. The way he played in Pittsburgh, I think he was calm and he played with confidence. As a player, you can tell when your goalie has that confidence and he has that right now. Hopefully he can keep it up because it makes our life easier when the goalie plays well."

Bobrovsky has won his past three starts, including a 24-save performance in Thursday's 4-2 win against the Penguins in Pittsburgh. In 14 games this season, he's 8-2-1 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.

In his one start this season against the Rangers, he stopped 30 of 32 shots in a 2-0 loss Nov. 26.

On the other side, Bryzgalov is without a win in his past four starts (0-3-1), including allowing four goals on 24 shots Dec. 23 against the Rangers. For the season, he's 14-8-3 with a 3.01 goals-against average and .890 save percentage -- fourth-worst among the 46 goalies who qualify for the League leaderboard.

Bryzgalov has had a roller-coaster start to his tenure in Philadelphia. He started with wins in his first three starts, including defeats of both of last season's Stanley Cup Finalists. Then came a five-game skid without a win that was capped by him allowing four goals on 10 shots in a 9-8 loss to the Winnipeg Jets that included him saying he was "lost in the woods."

He won six straight preceding this current losing streak, and became a star for his eccentric quotes on HBO's "24/7" show, ranging from his views on the universe to laws concerning tigers in China.

Bobrovsky was taken aback by Bryzgalov's pronouncement, and refused to confirm that he would be the starter. All he would allow for is saying it would be nice just to play.

"It doesn't matter who starts (Monday) because the most important thing is the result," Bobrovsky said via a translator. "It's a real game, there's two points on the line. It would have been special but the result is the most important thing."

Teammates also were adamant in saying that more shouldn't be made of one start in an 82-game season.

"The thing about Bryz is he's new to our team and obviously he's had some great game this year," said defenseman Braydon Coburn. "We're still growing. I'm sure whenever you get into a stretch and you get a goalie that's playing hot, you go with him. I'm sure Byrz's time is coming."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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