Leighton headed back to Phantoms

    Flyers goalie Michael Leighton will go back to AHL Adirondack for two more rehab games.

    The NHL approved an extension on Monday afternoon, general manager Paul Holmgren said.

    In two rehab games with the Phantoms over the weekend, Leighton was 0-2 with a 3.55 goals-against average and an .875 save percentage.

   Holmgren said Leighton's surgically repaired back had healed, but his left leg "was an issue."

   The GM also said there is a chance Leighton will remain on the long-term injured reserve (LTIR) list when his two-game rehab stint is over. The Phantoms have games Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

    On Oct. 11, Leighton had surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back. At the time, he was projected to miss six to eight weeks.

   When Leighton is ready to return to the Flyers, Holmgren did not rule out carrying three goalies for a short time. In order to fit Leighton and his salary under the cap, the Flyers would have to make a roster move. Among the possibilities: Putting Ian Laperriere or Matt Walker on the LTIR list.

   If they decided to carry two goalies, they may try to send Brian Boucher through waivers and to the Phantoms.

   A year ago, Leighton went 16-5-2 with a 2.48 GAA and .918 save percentage after the Flyers claimed him on re-entry waivers from Carolina on Dec. 15.

   He later returned from an ankle injury and played the final 2 1/2 games of the Flyers' historic comeback over Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

   In the conference finals against Montreal, Leighton got the attention of the hockey world, posting a 1.40 GAA, a .950 save percentage and three shutouts. Leighton became the first Flyer to notch consecutive playoff shutouts since Bernie Parent in 1975.

   But Leighton struggled in the Stanley Cup Finals against Chicago, becoming the first goalie to be pulled from two Finals games since 1991. He allowed two soft goals in the decisive sixth game, and he finished that series with a 3.96 GAA and .873 save percentage. The Flyers have lost in their last six Finals since 1976.

   After last season, Leighton was awarded with a two-year contarct that totaled $3.1 million. Leighton passed an end-of-season physical before signing the contract.

    In July, shortly after he signed his deal, Leighton complained about a back issue and the Flyers sent him for an exam.

  “We had an MRI done. It didn’t show anything that was an issue,” Holmgren said earlier this season. “He was told to continue to work on his strength, and he did his core-stability (exercises) and all that. At training camp, he was fine for a while and it started to crop up again in the Toronto game, so it’s one of those things.”

   Tests later showed Leighton had a herniated disk that would require surgery. That started the 6-foot-3, 186-pound goalie on a long recovery journey.

   With the 29-year-old Leighton sidelined, the Flyers took a chance on rookie goalie Sergei "Bob" Bobrovsky, who has been arguably the surprise story in the NHL during the season's first two months. Bobrovsky, 22, is among the league leaders in several categories, and his strong play has sparked the Flyers into a tie for the NHL's best points total.

   Bobrovsky has clearly emerged as the Flyers' No. 1 goalie. The question is, who deserves to be No. 2?

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