SAN JOSE, Calif. — When healthy, Michal Neuvirth has shown he can be a quality goaltender.
Unfortunately for Neuvirth and the Flyers, he has rarely been healthy, especially in the last two seasons.
On Saturday, general manager Ron Hextall announced that Neuvirth, who has been battling an apparent groin injury, was sent from San Jose to Philadelphia to be examined by a doctor.
After being bothered by an assortment of injuries and compiling a 2.60 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in just 22 games last season, Neuvirth underwent surgery on both hips. He has been able to play in just one game this season and was shelled in a 6-1 loss to the New York Islanders, surrendering six goals on 22 shots.
Neuvirth, 30, was kept out of Thursday's game in Los Angeles – he would have been the backup, if healthy – and Hextall said it was for precautionary reasons. The veteran goalie was able to practice Friday in San Jose, but something wasn't right and he was sent back to Philadelphia.
The Flyers overused No. 1 goalie Brian Elliott last season. At one point, he started 16 straight games and played in 25 of 26, which may have contributed to his needing core-muscle surgery in February.
Elliott, 33, also had hip surgery after the season, so the Flyers figured to ease his workload this year and increase Neuvirth's playing time.
That looks as if it won't happen.
On Saturday night in San Jose, Cal Pickard made his third start since the Flyers plucked him off waivers Oct. 2 from Toronto. Entering Saturday, Pickard had a 2-1 record with a 4.75 goals-against average and .833 save percentage in three appearances with the Flyers, including one in relief.
Elliott allowed eight goals in the Flyers' home opener, an 8-2 loss to San Jose on Oct. 9. Pickard, who spent two seasons with Colorado earlier in his career, had a chance Saturday to contain the Sharks.
For the foreseeable future, Pickard, 26, will be the Flyers' No. 2 goalie, an important spot because Elliott is coming off two surgeries. If Pickard struggles, the Flyers have three goalies with the AHL's Phantoms: Carter Hart (3.77 GAA, .882 save percentage entering Saturday), Alex Lyon (3.07, .924) , and Anthony Stolarz (4.34, .851).
Of the three, Hart, 20, is the least likely to get recalled in the next month because the Flyers want him to get more time in the AHL.
Elliott started 10 of the first 13 games and figures to get the call Monday in Arizona, where the Flyers will conclude their four-game trip.
As for Neuvirth, the Flyers might end up putting him on the injured-reserve list. They were carrying three goalies – "not an ideal situation," coach Dave Hakstol said – and they may use Neuvirth's roster spot for left winger James van Riemsdyk's expected return from a knee injury in mid-November.
"Neuvy's got to get healthy…and get there on a consistent basis," Hakstol said.