VOORHEES, N.J. – Michal Neuvirth says he feels pretty good and that he wants to be activated off long-term injury reserve.
He got his wish on Tuesday afternoon.
The Flyers' backup goaltender, who has missed 22 consecutive games rehabbing an MCL sprain to his left knee suffered in the first period of a 3-2 over the visiting Minnesota Wild on Nov. 12, has been activated off LTIR. Anthony Stolarz, who was backing up Steve Mason, was sent down to AHL Lehigh Valley to makr room for Neuvirth.
Tuesday marked Neuvirth's first full practice back with the Flyers since suffering his knee injury. He's eligible to play immidiately, but if you read into coach Dave Hakstol's words after Tuesday's practice, it sure sounds like Neuvirth won't play until after Wednesday's game against the Rangers.
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Hakstol feels he needs to see more before thinking of using Neuvirth, who is 4-2-0 with a 3.54 goals-against average and .859 save percentage in nine appearances this season, in a game.
When asked whether the 28-year-old is ready to play, Hakstol hesitated.
"Ahh, I guess I don't have the answer to that," he replied. "I haven't talked to Neuvy."
Pressed on it, Hakstol opened up a bit.
"Today was his first full practice," he said. "I want to sit and talk to him. I will base a lot of my opinion on that."
Before getting sent down to the Phantoms, Stolarz took practice with Neuvirth and Mason, the latter of whom will be the starter when the Rangers come to town Wednesday night.
Stolarz should have had a chance to play on the 0-2-1 road trip and didn't. It seems apparent that the coach still doesn't fully trust Stolarz and the proof there is that Mason played 21 of the 23 games since Stolarz's call-up on Nov. 15.
Regardless, the 22-year-old Stolarz should be a full-time backup here next season.
Asked about Stolie's NHL future, Hakstol was guarded.
"He's got to keep working," he said. "What he's done to this point, his practice levels are good. His game action has been solid. As a young player, keep working every day. He should be feel good about his body of work."
Stolarz was impressive in four games with a 2-0 record, 1.79 goals against average and .938 save percentage. He also has the Flyers' only shutout of the season, a 1-0 OT win over the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena in early December.
Twice he came off the bench cold to relieve Mason. Does he earn brownie points for that?
"Yeah, I don't know in terms of a couple more points, but that's his job and he was ready to do it and he did a good job of it," Hakstol said. "That's important. That's a positive."