As if the Philadelphia Flyers haven't had to endure enough of a test to see what they're made of this season, they will have to prove they win without red-hot goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov -- at least for the near future.
It was announced today that Bryzgalov -- who had gone 10-1-1 in his last 12 starts before dropping last night's disappointing 5-3 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning -- has a bone chip fracture in his right foot.
The 31-year-old Russian was already scheduled to be off when the Flyers visit the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday to rest, and get backup Sergei Bobrovsky some playing time.
"Right now, Ilya wasn't going to play on Thursday anyway, so we're going to just leave him back and continue to get his treatment," said general manager Paul Holmgren via conference call Tuesday afternoon.
The injury doesn't sound like it's a reason for too much concern, and Bryzgalov may even be able to return as early as this weekend, when Philadelphia plays two huge games (against the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins) with tremendous postseason ramifications.
"We don't think this is a serious injury," Holmgren said of Bryzgalov's ailment. "We're hoping that he'll be back on the ice practicing with the idea that he can play on the weekend. It's just going to be a little bit of pain management for Ilya. He feels OK today. In fact, he's going to come in and work out tomorrow and get treatment, and try to be ready to practice on Friday. Obviously when you're dealing with something like this, it might be too painful to skate on Friday, but we'll see. He doesn't feel that bad today. We'll see how it is."
A wait and see kind of situation, if you will.
There is no surgery required, and doctors say it should take care of itself with a bit of rest.
"It's not a thing that surgery is required, it's nothing like (James) van Riemsdyk's broken foot or anything like that," Holmgren assured. "It's a chip off a weight-bearing bone, and the doctor has said it'll be absorbed back into his system, the little chip that's in there, and there's no real risk here at all. It's just he's in a little bit of pain right now. Some of you guys I think saw him last night limping around, but this happened in warmup."
The injury occurred during the pre-game skate Tuesday before the Flyers took on the Lightning, as Bryzgalov was the victim of a bit of accidental friendly fire.
"He was looking the other way, when I think it was Jakub Voracek shot a puck from the side, and it hit him in an exposed part of his foot," the GM explained.
"It's going to be how it goes over the next couple days," he said as to whether his number one goaltender is ready to go against the Sens and the Pens. "Ilya wants to play, he feels like he'll be OK, but we'll just see how it goes."
And the organization will have a better idea as to how Bryzgalov is doing over the course of the next few days.
"I think we'll have a better grasp on how he is tomorrow," Holmgren said. "He's going to get some treatment here tonight and again come in tomorrow and work out and get treatment done. So we'll have a better idea where we're at tomorrow and then probably more on Thursday and Friday. As I said, nobody's really concerned. The doctors are not concerned, Jimmy McCrossin's not too concerned. He's a little sore right now. So we've gotta get some of the swelling out of there, and you do that with ice and ibuprofen or whatever, and go from there."
While that's definitely good news, it remains to be seen how this affects the flow of the NHL's hottest netminder, who was named the League's First Star for two consecutive weeks recently. After a mostly up-and-down campaign, Bryzgalov had finally found his rhythm in posting a 10-1-1 record, with a 1.22 goals-against average, and a .957 save percentage during the month of March before sustaining the injury prior to last night's loss.
But Holmgren isn't worried about Bryzgalov losing the momentum he's build recently.
"He's played a lot over the last little while here," he said. "He's missed days in practice and he hasn't lost his rhythm. Obviously the team didn't skate today, he probably won't skate tomorrow. Maybe he can skate on Thursday and practice on Friday. I'm not worried about that (losing his rhythm). Obviously there's a little bit of concern with the pain and the swelling, but Ilya's a tough kid, he wants to play, and we look forward to seeing him on the ice with the team at practice on Friday."
When asked if Michael Leighton would be recalled to serve as backup to Bobrovsky in Bryzgalov's absence, Holmgren said it would be another Adirondack Phantom who would be getting the call.
"No, actually we're going to recall Jason Bacashihua tonight."
Leighton would have to clear re-entry waivers if recalled, and Bacashihua falls into the category of the veteran emergency recall, and does not need to go through re-entry waivers.
Bobrovsky had actually outplayed Bryzgalov at times earlier in the season and many called for the 23-year-old Russian to take over the reigns when his elder countryman struggled, but he has lost four consecutive decisions, and five of his last six.
As a matter of fact, "Bob" has not yielded less than three goals in any of his last six appearances.
At any rate, it's a test for a team that has already lost defensemen Chris Pronger (for the rest of the year with post-concussion syndrome) and Andrej Meszaros (out indefinitely following lower back surgery), and forward van Riemsdyk to a broken foot after blocking a shot, and the team's very resiliency is being challenged.
Timonen To Be Given A Maintenance Day Off Thursday In Toronto
After missing five games to begin the month of March due to a nagging back injury, Timonen will miss Thursday's game in Toronto, also.
"Kimmo's not going to play on Thursday," Holmgren said. "This is kind of a maintenance thing we had planned. Tonight we'll recall Marc-Andre Bourdon, and then we'll see where (Andreas) Lilja is. He could possibly play on Thursday, but we're not sure. So we'll have seven defensemen there, and if Lilja can play, we'll probably make a decision on loaning Erik (Gustafsson) back, or Marc-Andre."
Even though Timonen had a rough game last night -- in which he was checked onto the back of the net and tripped awkwardly where he fell back-first into where the boards and ice meet -- Holmgren said it's all part of the club's ultimate blueprint.
"When Kimmo missed the time earlier, it was kind of a planned thing where we wanted to give him some rest and do some rehab," he said. "This is also part of the plan. It's just take this day off, he doesn't have to fly up, he doesn't have to play the game. He can rest and rehab and get ready to play on the weekend."
Which all makes sense. There is no reason to wear out the 37-year-old defender in pursuit of passing Pittsburgh for the fourth seed, or even the New York Rangers for the top spot in the Eastern conference. The time that Timonen will truly be the most valuable to the club is sometime after the end of the regular season on April 7.
In the meantime, both Bryzgalov and Timonen will miss time. It may end up being just Thursday, against a desperate Maple Leafs team on the threshold of elimination from postseason contention.
And all the while, it's yet another test for a club that has already passed many during the course of the season -- and with Flying colors.