UPDATE (4:00 p.m.): The NHL has granted the Flyers permission to send Michael Leighton to Adirondack this weekend for two more games. Read more below.
After playing in his first meaningful games since the Stanley Cup Final this weekend with the Adirondack Phantoms on a rehab assignment, Michael Leighton says he needs more time.
That’s why the Flyers asked the NHL for an extension this morning, allowing Leighton – who is still on the long-term injured reserve – to play another two games with the Phantoms this weekend to continue his rehab.
Under the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, Leighton was permitted one rehab stint of either six days or three games. That can be extended once and only once.
“He came through the games this weekend good,” Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said on a conference call. “But in my opinion, he still needs some work. We filed for a rehab extension this morning.
“Obviously, two games is better than no games.”
Leighton is apparently still feeling the effects of his surgery from Oct. 11, in which he had a herniated disk repaired. The disk was affecting a nerve in his left foot, which continues to give him numbness and pain in net.
“It’s still the same issue I had a little while ago,” Leighton said. “It’s still not 100-percent. My back feels pretty good. But it’s not just the numbness, it’s strength. The doctor said the nerve needs to regenerate itself. They aren’t sure when that will happen.
“In certain movements, it doesn’t feel right. It does not feel as comfortable as the other foot. I think the best thing for me now is to play games.”
The Phantoms play Friday night in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday in Glens Falls, N.Y., against Portland and Sunday in Hartford, Conn., against the Connecticut Whale.
Leighton also received some much needed practice time with the Phantoms, where he could have an entire net to himself instead of sharing one with Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher.
Leighton’s possible return to the Phantoms delays the Flyers’ inevitable roster decisions at least another week. Even then, the Flyers could just choose to keep Leighton – if he is not fully healthy – on the long-term injured list for the balance of the season, though that seems unlikely.
“I’m not sure we’d have to do anything,” Holmgren said. “To add him to the roster, we would have to make some sort of roster move to take him off [LTIR] and add him to our team. But I’d be leary about adding him and not having some other sort of insurance policy with another [backup] goalie.”
That’s why Holmgren said if Leighton is healthy, he wouldn’t be opposed to “keeping three goaltenders for the foreseeable future.”
“I obviously want to play,” Leighton said. “But I don’t want to come back and not be 100 percent, that doesn’t help the team.”
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