With Elliott out 6 weeks, Hextall expresses faith in Neuvirth

Brian Elliott

PHILADELPHIA – Just when it appeared safe to declare the Flyers a legitimate playoff contender, their old goaltending jinx reared its unattractive head again.
Winners of four straight games heading into Tuesday night’s game against New Jersey and sitting in third place in the Metro Division, the Flyers learned that starting goaltender Brian Elliott will be lost for five to six weeks after undergoing core muscle surgery.
Orthopedic surgeon Dr. William Meyers performed the operation.
It’s a stunning blow to a Flyers team which had put together a 20-8-2 stretch since the end of a 10-game winless streak in early December.
Elliott suffered what was initially listed as a lower-body injury during the shootout at Arizona on Saturday night.
He was clipped in the face by a Coyote stick and appeared to fall awkwardly.
Elliott, 32, had recently been sidelined by a lower-body injury which kept him out of four games. The Flyers went 0-3-1 during that stretch.
So for the immediate future, the bulk of the goaltending chores fall to No. 2 netminder Michal Neuvirth, who performed well in Sunday’s 4-1 win at Las Vegas.
Neuvirth will be backed up by Alex Lyon, who has appeared in three games this season (two as a starter).
General manager Ron Hextall met with the media before the game and said, predictably, that his team has faith in Neuvirth.
“It (losing a starting goalie) is certainly not what you want,’’ Hextall said. “What it does, it gives someone else an opportunity.
“We believe in Michal Neuvirth, that’s why we signed him (two years, $5 million last summer). He’s shown at times that he is a very good goalie. Hopefully he can take the assignment and do a good job for us.’’
In 18 games, Neuvirth has a record of 7-7-2 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.
Lyon has experienced some success recently with the Phantoms.
“Alex has played very well lately with Lehigh Valley,’’ Hextall said. “Obviously at some point he’s going to have to give us some minutes. We believe in both guys, we’ll get through it.’’
If Elliott is out the full six weeks, he would miss approximately all but five of the team’s final 25 games.
The NHL trade deadline is only 12 days away (Feb. 26) and Hextall was asked if he might test the market for an experienced goalie to help out during this upcoming stretch.
“I’ll repeat what I’ve said, if we can make our team better at any position, we’ll look at it,’’ Hextall said. “The deadline is two weeks away and I guess things could change.
“We like our team, we like what we’ve done. In saying that, we have to keep pushing. ‘Neuvy’ is very capable. He’s played some good games for us this year. . .others not so great.’’
Right now, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot out there to be obtained in a trade.
The Devils lost starting goalie Cory Schneider to injury recently and had to settle in a trade for Eddie Lack, a 29-year-old journeyman who was playing for Calgary.
The Flyers do have veteran goalie Dustin Toharski with the Phantoms and he does have NHL experience, including five games of Stanley Cup action with Montreal in 2013-14 (2-3).
Philadelphia also has former second-round draft pick Anthony Stolarz, a native of Edison, N.J., but he’s still recovering from a pair of knee surgeries and probably won’t be ready to play until March.
Toharski could be recalled if either Neuvirth or Lyon went down.
“He (Toharski) does have playoff experience,’’ Hextall acknowledged. “When we found out ‘Stolie’ was going to be out long-term, we wanted to add another layer to our goaltending. Would I be comfortable him coming down to play some games for us? Yes.’’
Neuvirth himself missed a month of action with a lower-body injury during December. He also has a history of getting injured.
“Whenever you have two goalies and you get down to one, you get a little bit nervous, no matter what,’’ Hextall said. “But a great example is Vegas. They get two guys down, three guys down. And everybody’s like ‘Vegas is done.’
“But you know what, they’re not done. They’re second in the league. So, it can be done with a fourth guy. So we’re confident Neuvy’s a guy who can carry us in the short term.”
Elliott has appeared in 41 games, with a 21-11-7 record, a 2.72 GAA and .908 SP.
Hextall said he’s sure Elliott will do whatever he can to get back as quickly as possible.
“I know Brian Elliott and he’s a warrior,’’ Hextall said. “He’s going to do everything to get back as soon as possible. It won’t be the work or the pain threshold that keeps him out longer than he should be.’’

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About Wayne Fish 2437 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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