VOORHEES, N.J. – Brian Elliott brings a lot of stability to the Flyers’ goaltending situation when he’s on the ice.
But actually he might make as big a contribution off the ice, especially now.
You see, at 32 (he turns 33 Monday), he’s been through pressure situations before and currently the Flyers are in a big-time one, faced with the prospect of possibly having to win their last two games to make the playoffs.
That’s why all media eyes and ears were tuned in to Elliott’s locker at the Skate Zone after Wednesday’s optional practice.
Elliott, who has been out since Feb. 10 due to core muscle surgery, raised the possibility of returning to action for Thursday night’s game against Carolina.
If there were ever a time for a veteran’s calming influence in the Flyers’ locker room, it’s this very moment.
“I’m definitely itching to get back with the group,’’ Elliott said. “It’s not fun watching. Mentally, it’s probably harder than anything.’’
Elliott has been practicing with the team since last Saturday. He said on Wednesday that he needs final clearance from team doctors before he can play and expects to be examined shortly
“It’s a tough question, it’s an ongoing process,’’ Elliott said. “You just keep evaluating it. Make those decisions on how much to work and how much to rest.’’
So facing the Hurricanes is a possibility?
“Nothing is ruled out right now,’’ he said. “It’s a good thing to be talking like that. You have to be happy with how things have progressed.’’
Elliott insists the Flyers’ precarious situation has little to do with the timeframe for his return.
“It’s basically how I feel, mentally and physically,’’ he said. “That’s what it all comes down to.
“They (the doctors) have to give final clearance. And then you go based on that. I think we’ll be seeing the doctor pretty soon. And then we’ll go from there.’’
Scott Laughton, for one, believes Elliott will be back in the lineup soon and adds that he will be a welcome addition.
Given Petr Mrazek’s uneven play, the inexperience of rookie backup Alex Lyon and the constant uncertainty of Michal Neuvirth’s health, Elliott might be just what the Flyers need.
“He’s got a lot of experience and he’s been in all situations,’’ Laughton said. “It will be good to get him back, see him back on the ice in a game and I think the boys are looking forward to it, too.’’
Coach Dave Hakstol said he’s already made his decision who will start in goal for the Flyers against Carolina but of course isn’t divulging any information.
That said, he does acknowledge Elliott will be a valuable veteran to have back in the fold once that happens.
“He’s a veteran and he’s a leader for us,’’ Hakstol said. “There is absolutely no question about that. He’s been that for us the entire year. That’s what a No. 1 guy is. He’s earned that role and that title.
“So obviously when a guy like that goes out of your dressing room, it leaves a little bit of a void. When we get him back, he’s an important piece to the hockey team. “He’s got to keep taking steps, that’s all.’’
Laughton’s mixed feelings
After playing in all 79 games this season, Laughton was benched for Tuesday night’s game at the Islanders in part to make room for the return of veteran wing Michael Raffl.
Hakstol said he had a talk with Laughton to tell him the healthy scratch was not a reflection of his play, but that didn’t provide a whole lot of solace, according to Laughton.
“It’s tough,’’ Laughton said. “I don’t think anyone wants to sit out. . .when you play every game and you’re battling all year and then (you sit) game 80, it’s tough to watch.
“I’m not too sure (why he was scratched). I thought I played well against Boston (last Sunday). One of my better games of the year. Before that, I had a couple tough games.
“I’m not too sure (the Hakstol talk helped). I’m not too sure how to answer that question. I thought I played a good game against Boston, so I don’t think he was lying.’’