ILYA BRYZGALOV says Philadelphia reminds him of his motherland Russia.
Bryzgalov, the Flyers' $51 million man, signed this summer to put his new team over the top, has been in Philadelphia for just five days. He has spent much of that time looking for a new house in South Jersey, gathering his equipment, and working out with some of his new teammates in informal pick-up games at the Skate Zone.
Yet, just one thing sticks in his mind about his time here so far: the weather.
"It's lots of rain," Bryzgalov said. "I'm a little [not] used to this weather, but it's fun.
"It reminds me of Russia a little bit, but it's great being here, there are lots of trees."
More rain is undoubtedly on the way, with Hurricane Irene set to pass through the Delaware Valley sometime this weekend. Somehow, Rittenhouse Square - where Bryzgalov has been staying - reminds him of Russia. Maybe Rittenhouse Square looks like Moscow's Red Square?
"It's a beautiful park there," Bryzgalov said. "The people have been very friendly. There are lots of good restaurants right there. I like it a lot here."
Bryzgalov, 31, promises to be one of the most entertaining voices in the Flyers' suddenly different locker room. You never know what might come out of his mouth. At one point, when putting on his Flyers jersey for the first time in front of cameras, he coughed and said "I've got to stop smoking!" yet he is known for abstaining from alcohol, which he professes on his Twitter feed.
Nonetheless, Bryzgalov said his teammates and the Flyers' organization has been much more welcoming than the weather.
He has skated in a few on-ice sessions with the likes of Danny Briere, Kimmo Timonen and new Flyer Max Talbot. One of Bryzgalov's old teammates from Anaheim, Chris Pronger, have been lingering around the Skate Zone as he continues his rehab from offseason back and hand surgeries.
Former Flyers Justin Williams, now with the Los Angeles Kings, and Todd Fedoruk, who is one of Bryzgalov's former teammates in Phoenix but will enter Vancouver's camp on a pro tryout next month, have also joined in the light, on-ice sessions.
"I see lots of talent in the guys, lots of talent and lots of passion to play hockey and to win," Bryzgalov said at his introductory press conference on Thursday. "It's a team with a rich history. The team has always had the highest goal in front of them: to win the Stanley Cup. That's what it's all about: winning. That's all that matters."
Bryzgalov said he is willing to play as much in the Flyers' net as he is asked by coach Peter Laviolette. He has not played in fewer than 65 games in each of the last 3 seasons, all spent in Phoenix.
"It all depends how they decide, the coaches and management, how much I need to play," Bryzgalov said. "If they need me to play over 70 games, I will play 70 games. If they want me to play 50 games, I will play 50 games."
Paul Holmgren said after the press conference that they "will see how it goes" about Bryzgalov's workload once the season starts, but added that if Bryzgalov appears fresh and is playing well that he could start more than 60 games this season.
"That's what we brought him in for," Holmgren said.
Bryzgalov admitted that it takes a juggling act of managing practice time and game time throughout the season in order to stay fresh for the playoffs.
"When you feel a little bit exhausted, tired physically and mentally, and you feel like you need to take a break, you have to take a break," Bryzgalov said. "Because it's tough to practice everyday and play almost every game. You're going to be exhausted. You've got to take a break once in a while.
"During the practice days you've got to stay off and work out with the trainers."
Bryzgalov has not yet met all of his teammates. He has not been introduced to fellow Russian and new partner Sergei Bobrovsky. Bryzgalov has not worked with goaltending coach Jeff Reese. And he said he knows he cannot yet get lunch delivered to the locker room until training camp starts - a staple of the hockey season.
But he does know that he doesn't need a lot to transition from Phoenix to Philly - even if it does look like Russia.
"We're all hockey people," Bryzgalov said. "We know why we're here. We know what we have to do."
SLAP SHOTS: Paul Holmgren said that Chris Pronger will visit with a back specialist in New York City on Friday, hopefully to be cleared to begin weight training for the first time since his offseason surgery ... Holmgren also said that defenseman Andrej Meszaros is fully healed from his May wrist surgery ... Training camp begins on Sept. 17 and the Flyers will have 3 days to prep before their first preseason test on Sept. 20 in Toronto. Holmgren said to expect a lot of young players in the lineup during the Flyers' first four exhibition games, with 4 games in 4 nights and 3 of them on the road.
For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers
Get exclusive videos and analysis in our new app for iPhone and Android. Download it here.