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Weekes: Laviolette fearless when picking goalies

by Dan Rosen

PHILADELPHIA -- As someone who played for Peter Laviolette, NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes has an intimate knowledge into how the Philadelphia Flyers coach goes about making his decision on a starting goaltender.

Weekes told Sunday that Laviolette has become more flexible in selecting his starter since Weekes played 66 games for the coach in 2003-04. He also said Laviolette showed that flexibility during the Flyers' run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010, when he used Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher to get Philadelphia to Game 6 against the Blackhawks.

It appears Laviolette's flexibility is on display once again because, according to Ilya Bryzgalov, the star goalie who signed a nine-year, $51 million contract with the Flyers in the offseason, Laviolette has chosen Sergei Bobrovsky to start for the Philadelphia in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Monday at Citizens Bank Park.


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The NHL, in conjunction with the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, announced Monday's 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will start at 3 p.m. ET. READ MORE ›

Bryzgalov announced in the Flyers' dressing room Sunday morning that goalie coach Jeff Reese told him he would not be starting Monday; instead, he would be the backup to Sergei Bobrovsky.

Laviolette did not confirm the move in his press conference, which followed Bryzgalov's pronouncement.

To Weekes, the goalie sideshow is interesting because it adds layers to the coverage of the Winter Classic, and it's telling for how Laviolette sees the difference in play between Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky.

Bryzgalov is 0-3-1 in his past four starts, having allowed 16 goals. Bobrovsky is 3-0-0 in his past three starts with only six goals allowed.

"In this situation, of course Ilya Bryzgalov wants to play. Why the heck would he not want to play?" Weekes told "This is the Winter Classic. You're the signature guy. You've been an All-Star a couple of times. They signed you to this big deal. You want to come in and put on a show for the Philly faithful.

"But you know what? I don't believe in entitlement. I believe in earning your keep. That was my whole experience in the NHL, so I can't really identify with a guy being entitled to play."

Bryzgalov never hinted that he feels any entitlement, nor did he say he deserves to play. But clearly he was disappointed in being shifted to the backup role while admittedly being upset with how he's played.

Bryzgalov has been hot and cold all season, with only 14 wins and a 3.01 goals-against average in 26 appearances. He gave up four goals on 24 shots in a 4-2 loss to the Rangers on Dec. 23.

Bobrovsky was in net for the Rangers' 2-0 win against Philadelphia on Nov. 26.

"I think one factor is he's played his entire career in the West. It's a different style of the play in the West," Weekes said of Bryzgalov, who came to Philadelphia after playing his first nine NHL seasons in Anaheim and Phoenix. "This is his first year in the East. He's with a new team. He's playing in Philly -- huge expectations, great hockey market, unbelievable fans. He hasn't found his comfort zone here yet."

But Weekes said there's no reason to believe Bryzgalov is going to be a bust in Philadelphia.

"It's not as though he has forgotten how to stop the puck," Weekes said. "Let's keep in mind this guy is a two-time All-Star. He just hasn't hit his stride yet. He's still adjusting to the new team, the new rink here in Philly and all the new arenas in the Eastern Conference.

"Those aren't excuses. Of course you expect him to perform and he'd be the first one to tell you he hasn't played up to his potential yet. It certainly has created a buzz around here, for sure."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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