PHILADELPHIA – Goaltender Cal Pickard just might be only keeping a seat warm for the return of the injured Michal Neuvirth, but he’s creating a few headlines in the process.
Pickard skated out to replace Brian Elliott midway through the third period of Tuesday night’s Flyers-Florida Panthers game and not only did a good job in the remaining 12 minutes of regulation time and then the OT, but actually was a star in the shootout.
If not for Pickard, who was claimed off waivers from Toronto 12 days ago, the Flyers might not have won this game.
Pickard picks up the victory in the 6-5 decision at the Wells Fargo Center and now moves to 2-0.
Elliott, on the other hand, is 1-3.
It was a pretty cool moment in the locker room after the game when captain Claude Giroux commented on the goalie’s performance.
Pickard seems to be able to make Giroux laugh. The two were smiling as they came off the ice after the shootout.
“He’s hilarious,’’ Giroux said. “We get along very well. He’s a fun guy to be around. When he plays, he battles. He’s a little clown. Just his face makes me laugh.
“It’s not easy to come in a game like that, he’s cold. He battled.’’
Pickard said he’s had some NHL shootout wins in the past but this was probably one of the more satisfying ones, coming with a new team.
“I think I was just smiling,’’ Pickard said, agreeing with Giroux’s comments. “Any time you can get a win it’s a good feeling. It was a rollercoaster game but we’ll take it.’’
Not easy coming into a game where nine goals have already been scored.
“It’s a challenge,’’ he said. “But it’s part of being the backup. You’re in the lineup and you have to be ready when called upon.
“You have to be patient (in overtime). There are a lot of good players out there. And nice to get a couple goals in the shootout.’’
Meanwhile, Weal tried to downplay his performance, which included his first goal and first assist of the season.
No question, he’s only in the lineup because James van Riemsdyk and Nolan Patrick are injured.
But if Weal plays well enough, he will make it difficult to pull him out of the lineup when those two players return.
“I think this was just an accumulation of work in the training camp,’’ he said. “Playing center and getting a good chance to show what I’ve got.
“We’ve got a lot of depth and I’m just getting an opportunity to play right now. When I get opportunities to play, we’ll see what happens.’’
Giroux likes what he sees.
“He’s very good on the puck,’’ Giroux said. “In one-on-one battles for the puck, he hardly loses, for his size, that’s pretty impressive. He’s a guy who works really hard on and off the ice. Good for him.’’
Added Scott Laughton: “He was good tonight. Wins a lot of puck battles. Creates space for himself. Got rewarded tonight. That’s huge for him and his confidence to get back in the lineup. He’s a real talented player, I’ve seen it in the minors and he has to keep rolling.’’