Hextall: Neuvirth could get conditioning start with Phantoms

Michal Neuvirth

VOORHEES, N.J. – At long last, there could be a Michal Neuvirth sighting before you know it.

Not in a Flyers’ uniform, mind you, but in a Lehigh Valley Phantoms outfit.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said on Tuesday that Neuvirth, sidelined since the preseason with a groin injury, could make a rehab/conditioning start on Wednesday night when the Phantoms visit the Hartford Wolf Pack in Connecticut.

“There’s a chance he plays tomorrow night,’’ Hextall said after a practice at the Skate Zone. “We’re kind of working through that right now.

“But he’s ready to go now.’’

The Flyers already have three goaltenders – Alex Lyon, Carter Hart and Anthony Stolarz – on the Phantoms roster, so all of them are likely to be spectators for this game.

Neuvirth also believes he’s ready to go. He’s been practicing for weeks, trying to take on a little more activity each day.

At some point, the Flyers would like to have their No. 2 goaltender back to a hundred percent.

They had to claim veteran Cal Pickard off waivers in Neuvirth’s absence.

And Elliott has been getting the lion’s share of the playing time, logging 400-plus minutes to Pickard’s 139.

“It is what it is,’’ Neuvirth said. “I’m trying to stay positive and keep working hard. I feel good. I’ve had a lot of practice but a game is a different story.’’

Neuvirth, a 30-year-old native of the Czech Republic, is in the final year of a two-year contract which pays him $2.5 million annually.

In his three-plus seasons with the Flyers, he’s been constantly plagued by knee, hip, groin injuries, etc. He’s been limited to game totals of 32, 28 and 22.

Asked if the fear of reinjury is in the back of his mind, Neuvirth shrugged.

“Obviously it’s in the back of my mind but I have to stay positive,’’ Neuvirth said. “I’m just focusing on my game. Whatever happens, happens.’’

Cure for slow starts?

Scott Laughton was outspoken about the Flyers’ slow starts this season. They lead the NHL in giving up the first goal of the game with eight (a 4-4 record). Vancouver is second with seven.

“It’s tough. I can’t put my finger on anything,’’ Laughton said. “I think we’ve been doing the same stuff at the start of games. I think we’re ready, prepared, good warmup, stuff.

“But we need to be more urgent. We get down one goal, then we start getting urgency in our game, start attacking and playing the way we’re supposed to.

“We’re sitting back and waiting for them to make a play. Trying to cheat a little bit too much. I think it’s catching us right now and we need to fix it.’’

Some of the problem could be the penalty kill, which has slipped to 30th at 68.8 percent.

In Monday night’s 4-1 loss to Colorado, the Flyers gave up a power-play goal barely three minutes into the game.

“It’s little breakdowns,’’ Laughton said. “I think we’re good for a lot of our PKs. We have a couple breakdowns, things don’t go right and it’s in the back of our net.

“We’ve been working at it, we’ve been looking at it. We need everyone on the same page. Everyone do their job and we’ll get out of it. We’re good for 90, 95 percent of the penalty kills. Then they go down, it hits one of our sticks or they make a good seam pass where we need to be there.

“We need to be better. Even last night, I missed the net on one of ours, they come back into our zone and that can’t happen. We have to be smarter on the penalty kill.’’

Slow starts are nothing new for the Flyers.

Since the beginning of the 2015-16 season, the Flyers have been scored on first 147 times and scored the first goal 108 times.

Their record in the 147 games: 58-65-24.

Their record in the 108 games: 68-24-14.

“It’s never a good thing when you’re chasing games,’’ Sean Couturier said. “We have to be better at the start, capitalize on our chances.’’

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About Wayne Fish 2471 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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