Following ‘gloomy' Time, What's Next for Brian Elliott?

It was April 11, Game 1 of the Flyers-Penguins first-round playoff series.

Brian Elliott's life had changed drastically - and quickly.

Here was Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel flying at him from all angles.

About a month ago …

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"I couldn't put on my socks or tie my shoes," Elliott said.

"It was gloomy there for a little bit when you're reaching down and you can't even put your sock on to walk out the door."

Elliott had gone 53 days without playing an NHL game because of core muscle surgery he underwent Feb. 13. Then, after just two regular-season outings in which he struggled and was hardly challenged, Elliott was tasked with slowing down the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions.

It didn't go well.

The 33-year-old went 1-3-0 with a 4.74 goals-against average and .856 save percentage. He was yanked twice and did not finish the series as Michal Neuvirth took over for Games 5 and 6 - a victory and a season-ending loss.

All of which begged the question: was he 100 percent or was his return premature?

"It's hard to put a percentage on it, but I definitely came back a little early … crawling on the table after the games," Elliott said last Wednesday from the team's dressing room at Flyers Skate Zone. "You're just trying to push through it. I had a couple practices before getting back into games and you're kind of in between trying to push yourself to get back into form and also taking care of your body so you're not too sore to skate the next day. It was just hard to manage it a little bit, and I'm still dealing with issues as far as the injury is concerned."

The Flyers needed all 82 regular-season games to clinch a playoff berth. They were in desperate need of their No. 1 goalie - or at least just one of the two that opened the regular season on the roster. While Elliott was healthy enough to play, he opened up about some of the issues that may have hampered his performance.

"It's tough, but at the end of the day you have to go out there and play to tear up some of the scar tissue stuff because you can only massage that stuff out of there before you've got to just tear it up the way you play," he said. "The last couple games, I'm glad they kept it under 20 shots because I don't think I could do any more than what I had. It got better every day just because of that and you have to tear that stuff up to get full range of motion again. I'm confident that it will get back to normal, but it definitely wasn't normal."

Elliott was unsure if he would need a follow-up procedure to help clean out some of the remaining issues and expedite his recovery. Speaking a day after the goaltender, general manager Ron Hextall did not know yet either.

Regardless, Elliott expects to be 100 percent come training camp. Prior to his injury, he went 15-5-1 with a 2.51 goals-against average and .912 save percentage since Dec. 4, a span of 22 games.

"I'm comfortable where we are as an organization with our goaltending," Hextall said. "Brian Elliott played extremely well for us until he got hurt there.

"We've got our kids coming. We've got the kids up in Lehigh. We feel very comfortable with where we are at; in saying that, we need some growth, too." 

And that leads to the biggest question of can Elliott - and Neuvirth (see story) - be reliable enough in net during 2018-19, a year with much more on the line (see story)?

In the final season of his two-year contract, Elliott may not be the future, but he's here while the team is starting to reach its own.

That makes him as important as anybody.

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