Thanks to a dazzling training camp - and injuries to Michael Leighton and Johan Backlund - 22-year-old rookie Sergei "Bob" Bobrovsky has climbed to No. 2 on the Flyers' goalie depth chart.
The goalie who is No. 1, veteran Brian Boucher, has become one of Bobrovsky's biggest fans.
"He's very agile, very quick," Boucher said after Thursday's practice at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. "I don't know how he was not drafted. He seems too good to not be noticed before."
In four preseason games, Bobrovsky has a 1.37 goals-against average and a (gulp) .952 save percentage.
Playing for a weak team in Russia, Bobrovsky was 9-22-3 last season with a 2.72 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. The Flyers signed him as a free agent in May, and he has improved under the tutelage of goalie coach Jeff Reese.
"He's as quick a goalie as I've seen, and as flexible and as agile as I've ever seen," Boucher, 33, said. "Obviously, camp is a short period of time, and it'll probably take an adjustment for him to get used to the grind of the North American game, where we play a lot of games. But so far, I've been very impressed with his abilities."
Ditto general manager Paul Holmgren.
"He's worked on a lot of things, and he's ready. He's like a sponge right now - a typical young guy who wants to learn and wants to get better," Holmgren said. "It's encouraging."
The Flyers (4-1-1) finish the preseason with a home-and-home series against Buffalo, hosting the Sabres on Friday and playing in Upstate New York on Sunday. Coach Peter Laviolette said he was undecided which goalie would start those games, but he said it would not be Backlund on Friday.
Boucher figures to start the season opener Thursday in Pittsburgh, which will christen its new arena. It will be interesting to see if the Flyers give Bobrovsky a start in Game 2 in St. Louis.
Pronger update. Defenseman Chris Pronger did not skate again and spent time in the weight room strengthening his surgically repaired knee. Holmgren said he was "hopeful" Pronger would be ready to play in Thursday's opener.
Pronger will skate again on Sunday or Monday, and Holmgren said the veteran did not necessarily have to play in an exhibition game to be ready for the opener.
"But we're not in a position where we are going to rush him," Holmgren said. "We'll do the right thing and make sure he's ready, physically and mentally."
Guerin sits. Forward Bill Guerin (infected elbow), fighting for a roster spot, was among those who missed practice. Holmgren said a decision on whether Guerin, 39, makes the team probably won't come until Wednesday.
"At some point, we've just got to either say yea or nay," Holmgren said. Either "roll the dice and hope he helps us, or B, not roll the dice and do something else, whether it be one of the young guys" - such as Mike Testwuide, Ben Holmstrom, or Andreas Nodl.
Briere recovering. Danny Briere, who sat out Wednesday's 3-1 exhibition win over a makeshift Islanders team because of a throat ailment, is making progress. He is expected to skate Friday but not play in the exhibition game that night.
"He had almost like an infected tonsil that they had to drain," Holmgren said. "There's a couple of days where he had trouble swallowing, so he's lost quite a bit of weight."
Breakaways. Rookie defensemen Erik Gustafsson and Marc-Andre Bourdon have played well but appear headed to Adirondack in the AHL. . . . The Flyers have 33 players on their roster and must get down to a maximum of 23 for Thursday's opener. . . . The Hockey News ranked Flyers fans the "craziest" in the league and said the Wells Fargo Center is the NHL's toughest arena for opposing teams.
Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181
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