The news keeps coming fast and furious for a Flyers team which sounds determined not to let a few key injuries derail their playoffs express.
On Tuesday, it was announced that forward Wayne Simmonds will miss two to three weeks with a lower-body injury.
Oskar Lindblom was called up Monday night from the Phantoms anticipating this situation and will be ready to go for Tuesday night’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.
Also, some worst fears were confirmed when it was announced goalie Michal Neuvirth will miss four to six weeks with a lower-body injury, a condition which prompted general manager Ron Hextall to trade for Detroit goaltender Petr Mrazek on Monday night.
Mrazek said he was surprised by the move but not really shocked. Detroit management had already discussed the possibility of moving him. He’s a restricted free agent next season.
“I didn’t see it coming,’’ Mrazek said at the morning skate at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. “I got a call about 9:30 (p.m.) yesterday from (Detroit GM) Ken Holland and then I got a call from Ron Hextall. I was excited.
“A couple of months ago I had a discussion with Ken Holland about it and he said if he had a good opportunity to do it he was going to try to move me. I was really happy and the last couple of months have been better for us in Detroit. I got to play more, had a chance to play more minutes.”
Mrazek is enjoying a good season, with an 18-8-7 record. For his career, he’s 72-58-20. He was a fifth-round draft pick by the Red Wings in 2010.
He credits his recent success to good preparation.
“I changed a couple of things during the summer,’’ he said. “I came to the camp ready to play. I didn’t play much the first half of the season and I think it was tough for me to play my game. I played maybe once in two weeks, once in three weeks. It was tough but during that stretch I worked hard on the ice to try to improve my game. I think in the last couple of months the game was in the right direction.’’
What was the initial problem?
“On the ice I think I was moving too much,’’ he said. “I was all over the place. I try to stay in the blue paint more and stay patient. The puck comes to you, and if you find it you can have it.
“And off the ice, too, I’ve worked with my fitness coach for nine years and we’ve finally found a way to get ready and be prepared for everything, mentally and physically.’’
Mrazek is hitting town at just the right time. The Flyers are on a roll and appear to be on their way to a playoff spot.
“Guys are playing really well now,’’ he said. “They have a good team. When we came to the building we all know how tough it is to play against them. They have fast forwards and defense and a really good power play. This building is loud; they have really good fans, so it’s always been tough for us to play here. So I hope we’re going to make that happen to the other team now.”
At 26, Mrazek appears to be hitting his stride.
“Every goalie has to figure out the way they want to play,’’ he said. “I said before me and ‘Howie’ (Jimmy Howard) we were in Detroit together and there was never a clear No. 1 guy. In the system they were always talking to me about who’s going to be No. 1 or who should play. If I had two or three good games they’d say I should keep playing … I think the pressure for both of us was pretty high.
“We had to be sharp every night if you wanted to play the next game. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It’s a very good thing when we can battle between goalies and do the best we can.”
How Mrazek performs down the stretch could determine whether the Flyers sign him for next season.
“I didn’t even think about that,’’ he said. “I didn’t see Ron (Hextall) yet; I’m sure I’m going to talk to him soon. I’m looking forward to talk to him and see what happens. But the first thing right now is to make the playoffs here and then have a good run.”
Coach Dave Hakstol expressed confidence in Mrazek.
“He’s been a good goaltender in this league,’’ the coach said. “He’s done that over time and certainly this year … if you look at his performances over the last month, very solid. He’s been excellent so we’re excited to have him.’’
The loss of Simmonds no doubt hurts the Flyers for the next few weeks. He just scored his 20th goal and he’s an all-purpose player.
“We need everyone to kind of chip in with that (Simmonds) role,’’ Sean Couturier said. “He’s a big part of the leadership group; we just need guys to step up, not necessarily be vocal but lead by example.
“It’s never fun when you’re missing a guy. Right now we’re in a good position for guys to come in and step up … it’s a great opportunity for someone to try to fill in.”
Lindblom hopes he can help fill the void, although he’s not the same style player.
“Just to be out on the ice and have the team win that’s what I want to do,’’ Lindblom said. “They’ve given me a lot of chances to play so it’s been good for me.’’
Hakstol always plays the cards he’s dealt with few complaints.
“You go through all kinds of different adversities through a season,’’ he said. “Injuries are part of it. Everybody goes through them and we’re no different from anybody else..
“Obviously those (Simmonds’) are big shoes to fill on our team in a lot of different respects. But everybody will fill in, chip in and take a piece of it. That’s what it’s all about in terms of being a good team.”