If Neuvirth gets first start, he could provide a spark

Dave Hakstol

If goalie Michal Neuvirth does get his first start of the season in Saturday’s home game against the New York Islanders, maybe a new face can provide a spark for the slumping Flyers.

A preseason groin injury has kept the often health-hampered netminder inactive until a rehab start with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Wednesday.

Neuvirth felt good enough to dress as Brian Elliott’s backup for Thursday night’s game at Boston.

At some point, Neuvirth has to give it a go in live NHL action, so it might as well be now.

Coach Dave Hakstol doesn’t want it to be about one player but acknowledges any help from any player will be welcome at this point.

“We don’t need a goaltender to go in and necessarily be the spark,’’ Hakstol said after Friday’s practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J.

“That’s not what we’re asking. We’re asking everyone to do their job. But somebody has to be the spark. I’ll guarantee you that, somebody’s got to be the spark to push us in the right direction.’’

Neuvirth said it was a good idea to get a minor league game under his belt before taking on the big boys.

“I’m glad I went,’’ he said. “It was a good test.’’

Like many goaltenders, it’s all about getting that self-belief to a high level.

“You have to build the confidence with the little things,’’ he said. “Right now, we just have to play shift by shift and stick together.’’

Neuvirth is in the final year of a contract which pays him $2.5 million annually.

He’s had seasons of 32, 28 and 22 games. He’s already missed 10 games this season, so don’t look for that trend to make a big reversal.

Yet he’s had a history of inspiring teammates with some occasional sensational play (remember that 44-save shutout in the playoffs against Washington a few years back?).

Can a big game by him get things turned around in the right direction?

“No, this is a team sport,’’ he countered. “We need everybody to play good. I’m just going to concentrate on myself and hopefully help the team win.’’

The Flyers have been inconsistent on offense this season, scoring six goals one night, none the next.

Leading into Saturday’s game against the Islanders, they have a grand total of two goals the past two games, including none in the 3-0 loss at Boston.

Is there confidence lacking?

“You can’t talk your way through that,’’ Hakstol said. “You have to play your way through it. What I want our team to do is go ahead and play with confidence, play together.

“It’s hard. Yesterday we put together a pretty good road game. But as soon as we gave up that first one, our confidence broke a little bit, especially over the next few minutes.’’

The Flyers haven’t had one of those post-game, closed-door meetings yet, but we might be getting close.

“That’s something we have to handle ourselves,’’ Hakstol said. “That’s going to come from within. It’s no different in terms of scoring. It has to come from within, just doing it.’’



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About Wayne Fish 2418 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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