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Bryzgalov 'More Hungry' to Succeed

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

Ilya Bryzgalov isn't interested in the current state of the Edmonton Oilers, their current goaltending situation or the fact that he hasn't played in the NHL since last season. He is just focused on the opportunity the team has given him, by agreeing to a one-year contract with the goaltender last night.

"I just concentrate on where I am right now," said Bryzgalov in a phone interview. "I want to come to Edmonton, play hard, play well and make the team better."

The Oilers made several roster moves last night, including trading long-time defenceman Ladislav Smid to the Calgary Flames to make cap space for their new netminder.

Bryzgalov says that though the team has maintained contact with him for several months, he is glad things finally came to a climax last night.

"We had a couple of conversations before, but I am so glad we finally reached a deal… I feel pretty good, it's a good opportunity for me to return to hockey and I need hockey.

"I need hockey and thank you to the Edmonton Oilers, the organization, (General Manager) Craig MacTavish for giving me the opportunity to play again."

MacTavish is hoping that the goaltender can return to the level of play he exhibited earlier in his career in stops with the Anaheim Ducks and particularly with the Phoenix Coyotes. Bryzgalov, 33, has played in 425 NHL games, with a win-loss record of 208-149-45 and 30 career NHL shutouts. He has a career average of 2.55 goals against and a .913 save percentage.

"We get a goaltender that has a history of being a high-performer in parts of his career," said MacTavish. "And we get a guy who I think that's very motivated and he's going to have a chance to be a good goalie."

After a 2012-13 season with Philadelphia, in which he played 40 games and recorded a 19-17-3 record with a 2.79 goals against average and .900 save percentage, the Flyers bought out the remainder of Bryzgalov's seven-year deal.

He has since been waiting in the wings for his next opportunity, and one he is eager to face with the Oilers.

"I am always highly motivated," Bryzgalov said. "I always want to win. That's always been the goal for me. I might be a little more hungry right now because of sitting back and two months without hockey when everyone is playing and watching it. I got more hungry."

The goaltender may be sent to the Oilers' American Hockey League affiliate in Oklahoma City, although an official transaction has not taken place, for a conditioning stint. The backstop says that although he has missed valuable ice time, he believes he is close to game-ready.

"I was skating in Moscow when I was in Russia. When I came to the United States, I skated two weeks with the Las Vegas Wranglers team. Right now, it's kind of been three weeks off the ice. Not really, off the ice. Just without shooter… I keep myself in pretty good shape, physically. I am, everyday, working in the gym and I think I am in pretty good physical shape."

During HBO's 24/7 show about the Philadelphia Flyers, Bryzgalov became famous with his unique personality. When asked just what kind of personality he will bring to the Oilers' dressing room, he simply said that people will have to make their own judgements.

"I can't make any comments because I think every person has to judge himself, about another person. They can't listen to anyone else. That's how I approach it. It doesn't matter what people think of other people. I only make judgements for myself."

The Oilers GM told Sportsnet shortly after the signing that he's had many conversations with Bryzgalov and "he's going to be a surprise for us in terms of his character."

The goalie is ready to put his past behind him and eager to venture into the 'Great White North'.

"I've packed lots of warm clothes," Bryzgalov laughed and joked. "I'm not going to be freezing for sure."

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