VOORHEES – There’s no way to know exactly when starting goaltender Brian Elliott will return to action but the very sight of him taking shots at Tuesday’s practice has to be somewhat encouraging.
Elliott has been sidelined since for five games since the middle of last month with what amounts to a hip problem. He underwent surgery on one of his hips during the offseason and really hasn’t been healthy for a prolonged stretch this season.
But the 33-year-old netminder is hoping the worst is behind him.
“Whenever you get a chance to face actual shots, a little bit of game situations and try to replicate that, you’re feeling on the upside,’’ Elliott said after Tuesday’s practice at the Skate Zone.
“I don’t have percentages (of the degree of his comeback) but day-by-day it’s been getting better. It tests your patience but making sure that you don’t rush it and take a step backwards.’’
This season, Elliott has played in 14 games with a 6-7-0 record, a 2.59 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage.
Those aren’t too far off his career numbers of 2.45 and .913.
And, in all fairness, the Flyers have played only sporadically in front of him.
Take the home opener back on Oct. 9 against San Jose. The defense was almost non-existent and the Elliott was left out to dry for a whopping eight goals, which about two were his fault.
Elliott is trying to see just a little more progress each day.
“I think it’s probably just 10 percent workload increments each day,’’ he said. “And then a rest day to see how the body reacts to that.
“When you have days when you’re not coming off (the ice) wincing, you are having positive days.’’
Right around this time last year, Elliott was forced to take on an “ironman’’ role (with Michal Neuvirth injured) and made it through unscathed.
Is it realistic to think Elliott can do that again?
“I mean you want to, you want to be out there all the time,’’ Elliott said. “If I didn’t think I could handle it, I wouldn’t even be trying.
“You have to be smart, you’re in it for the long haul, not the short-term stuff. Luckily, we have ‘Neuvy’ coming back from injury and ‘Stolie’ (Anthony Stolarz) playing pretty well. It allows me a little bit of grace to take my time a little bit and make sure I’m back to where I need to be to play.’’
Turning point redux?
It was exactly at this point last season where the Flyers turned around their fortunes.
On Dec. 4, the Flyers were coming off a 10-game (0-5-5) winless streak which had seen them drop all the way to near the bottom of the stasndings at 8-11-7.
But that’s when they headed out on a three-game road trip to western Canada (Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver) which they swept for the first time in 21 years.
They went on to win six games in a row and won 16 of their next 22 games. From there, they finished the season with the fifth-most points in the NHL and made the playoffs.
Coincidentally, the Flyers will be starting a five-game road trip on Saturday in Buffalo and from there they play four games in the west – Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver.
Just something to keep an eye on.