It’s an intrepid move, but it’s one that Flyers coach Peter Laviolette hopes will give his team a spark they desperately need tomorrow in Pittsburgh.
Johan Backlund, the Phantoms’ starter for most of the season, will make his NHL debut in net for the Flyers tomorrow afternoon in their final appearance at Mellon Arena. It is the Flyers' first of back-to-back games this weekend, with the Devils visiting the Wachovia Center on Sunday night.
"I hope they trust me," Backlund told reporters after today's practice. "It would be a great chance to play my first game and try to help the team. We have to win games here to [stay] in the playoffs."
Backlund's name was at the top of the Flyers' depth chart for practice today, even though Laviolette wouldn't give any hints as to his lineup.
Backlund, 28, is far from a rookie – even though this is his first professional season in North America. He started more than 50 games each of the past four seasons in the Swedish Elite League.
He posted a 2.79 goals against average and a .906 save percentage in 41 starts with the Phantoms this season.
Backlund will replace Brian Boucher, who hasn’t been able to hold down the Flyers’ starting job when it has been handed to him this season. Boucher allowed three unanswered goals – including the game-winner, which he kicked into his own net – in the Flyers’ 4-3 overtime loss to Minnesota on Thursday. It was the Flyers’ fourth consecutive loss.
Speaking before Laviolette had made his decision, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren had high praise for Backlund. Holmgren said before Thursday night's loss that he would be comfortable with Backlund in net.
"I'd actually relish the opportunity to watch him," Holmgren said. "He's done everything we've asked in the American League and he's won games singlehandedly down there."