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Oilers' Bryzgalov gets first shot at Flyers since buyout

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- Ilya Bryzgalov will be looking for a measure of revenge when the Edmonton Oilers host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night at Rexall Place.

The Oilers goaltender is facing his former team for the first time since being bought out this offseason, two years into a nine-year, $51 million contract.

Bryzgalov signed with the Oilers as a free agent on Nov. 8 and has played in eight games.

"Bryzgalov has been excellent for us," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "Obviously not being in the Philadelphia organization, you read things and you hear things and you see all of this talk. It seems like it's been the exact opposite here from what went on there.

"He's been a good teammate and a pleasure to coach. He's been stopping the puck fairly well. We've had absolutely no problems at all."

Bryzgalov did not address the media Saturday morning and would not discuss facing the Flyers when asked Friday prior to the Oilers' 2-0 win against the Calgary Flames.

Bryzgalov has a 2-4-0 record with the Oilers, a 2.80 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.

The Oilers became interested in Bryzgalov when their goaltending tandem of Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera struggled at the beginning of the season.

"Once [Bryzgalov] was a free agent, I spoke to him on the phone for close to an hour, not knowing him at all," Eakins said. "We had a very long conversation about some of his experiences. I went through some of his past coaches, I was trying to get a feel for who he was.

"When I hung up the phone, even though I wasn't certain which way we were going with this, I was certainly cheering for him. I was hoping that somebody would sign him and give him another chance. You have to be open to everything; I think it's really dangerous to shut doors on people when they run into a rough spot in a certain place."

The Flyers didn't have to deal with Bryzgalov in their first game against the Oilers this season; the Russian goaltender had just signed with Edmonton and was sent to the American Hockey League for a conditioning stint. He joined the Oilers in mid-November and since returning from a neck injury has received the bulk of the starts.

Saturday marks the fifth time Bryzgalov has started for the Oilers in their past seven games.

"It'll be different playing him for sure," Flyers left wing Scott Hartnell said. "I'm sure we'll have some fun out there and we'll try to get him off his game a little bit.

"When you shoot against a goalie for two years like we did, we've seen him make some unbelievable stops and seen him make some easy stops. Hopefully we can get to him, get to the hard areas and make it hard night for him, get some goals on him and get a win."

Hartnell got to know Bryzgalov well during the goaltender's time in Philadelphia, which came to an abrupt end.

"He is a different bird, I'm sure he'd be the first one to tell you that as well," Hartnell said. "Me and him sat right beside each other in the practice rink and joked around and had fun in the couple of years he was there.

"For good or bad they decided to part ways and we're dealing with it now. We have two good goalies that are working hard, come every practice and every game and we have a solid team to show for it."

Saturday is the start of a six-game road trip for the Flyers. Steve Mason will be in goal for Philadelphia. Steve Downie will make his return to the lineup, having missed the previous two games with an upper-body injury.

Here are the projected lineups:


Taylor HallRyan Nugent-HopkinsDavid Perron

Jesse JoensuuSam GagnerJordan Eberle

Ryan SmythBoyd GordonAles Hemsky

Luke GazdicAnton LanderNail Yakupov

Andrew FerenceJustin Schultz

Anton BelovJeff Petry

Nick SchultzMartin Marincin

Ilya Bryzgalov

Devan Dubnyk

Scratched: Roman Horak

Injured: Corey Potter (groin), Mark Arcobello (ribs), Ryan Jones (head), Philip Larsen (illness)


Michael RafflClaude GirouxJakub Voracek

Scott HartnellBrayden SchennWayne Simmonds

Matt ReadSean CouturierVincent Lecavalier

Steve DownieChris VandeVeldeZac Rinaldo

Braydon CoburnKimmo Timonen

Mark StreitNicklas Grossmann

Luke SchennAndrej Meszaros

Steve Mason

Ray Emery

Scratched: Jay Rosehill, Hal Gill

Injured: Adam Hall (illness), Marc-Andre Bourdon (concussion), Erik Gustafsson (knee)

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