Thursday, November 27, 2014
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Leighton on his way, but why?

According to the Glens Falls Post-Star, the Flyers and Phantoms are swapping goaltenders, with Michael Leighton on his way to Philadelphia. Brian Boucher is reportedly heading to Adirondack.

Leighton on his way, but why?

Michael Leighton (49) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, in Tampa, Fla. (Chris O´Meara/AP)
Michael Leighton (49) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Tampa Bay Lightning Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, in Tampa, Fla. (Chris O'Meara/AP)

Not incredibly far from Boston, where the Flyers fell flat again in a 3-0 shellacking by the Bruins, equipment bags were rustling in Glens Falls, N.Y.

According to the Glens Falls Post-Star, the Flyers and Phantoms are swapping goaltenders, with Michael Leighton on his way to Philadelphia. Brian Boucher is reportedly heading to Adirondack.

It’s a curious move, one that doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. Given the Flyers’ obvious woes, the backup goaltender position would seem to be one of the last focal points on this roster.

To say that Sunday’s matchup with Buffalo is a must-win situation for the Flyers would be to put it lightly. They are in desperation mode, with the ability to fall to 14th place in a jam-packed Eastern Conference with a loss. Jobs are seemingly on the line with the game, extending from the front office through the Flyers’ bench.

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Desperate times call for desperate measures. Does that mean Peter Laviolette is considering starting Leighton against the Sabres?

The Flyers are not holding a morning skate on Sunday, so we won’t have any way of knowing until game time. But it doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. Laviolette has always been a big Leighton fan, hence the reason why he is on his second contract with the team.

Nonetheless, it would still be a shocking move. A must-win game, with a goaltender who has played just 4 NHL games (including playoffs) since Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final in 2010 – one who was in the minors as recently as Saturday.

Truthfully, Ilya Bryzgalov looked tired on Saturday in Boston. He gave up three goals in quick succession against the Bruins, and he hasn’t been able to come up with the “big” save – something he did with regularity to start the season – to keep his team in front.

Bryzgalov, 32, has made 24 starts in the Flyers’ 26 games. He’s played more minutes (1,349:58) than any goaltender in the league. He’s also given up more goals (63) and has more losses (11) than any goaltender. His goals against-average has ballooned from 2.20 a month ago to north of 2.80 on Saturday. His save percentage has plummeted from .923 to under .899.

Leighton, 31, is coming off an injury to his right ring finger. He’s rehabbed and appeared in two games with Adirondack (1-1-0) since clearing waivers on March 1. His most recent outing, on Friday night against second place Springfield, was his best - stopping 31 out of 32 shots.

Leighton was shelled in his only NHL appearance this season, a 5-1 loss in Tampa Bay on Jan. 27. He has a goals against-average of 4.12 (9 GA in 189 minutes) and an .896 save percentage in those 4 games since Patrick Kane's Cup-clinching goal.

As hard as it is to put Kane's goal out of mind, it’s hard to forget Leighton’s last game against Buffalo. He started Game 6 of the Flyers’ first round series (see: circus, goaltender) in Buffalo and gave up 3 goals on 8 shots on April 24, 2011. He was pulled in the first period of that start, which was also a gamble.

It’s equally tough to understate the importance of Sunday’s nationally televised game. With a loss, the Flyers would put themselves in a position of having to gain at least 30 points over their final 21 games of the season to assure themselves a playoff spot.

Ripping off 15 wins in 21 contests is a lot to ask of any team, except for the Chicago Blackhawks, but it’s an especially daunting task for a team which has not won three straight all season.

Starting Leighton would be a bold move, one that will likely have an already impatient fan-base lighting their torches and sharpening their scythes should it not pay off.

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers

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Frequent Flyers is your home for news and analysis of all things orange and black.

Frank Seravalli Daily News Staff Writer
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