Michal Neuvirth Details Scary Collapse, Thoughts on Expansion Draft, Future With Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Not so vividly, Michal Neuvirth recalls staring up at the Wells Fargo Center rafters and seeing concerned faces peering down.

He had no idea why he lay on the ice in front 19,911 fans, arms and legs widespread covering the blue-painted goalie crease.

All he knows now is that he doesn't want a clearer picture of that April 1 night when he suddenly collapsed playing in net during the first period of the Flyers' 3-0 win over the Devils.

"To be honest, I didn't watch it," Neuvirth said Tuesday at Flyers Skate Zone. "I heard about it a lot. I didn't watch it. I haven't seen it -- I don't think I'm going to watch it.

"It was scary, a lot of people were afraid. It was a tough situation. I didn't watch it."

Ten days after the incident, at his end-of-the-season interview, Neuvirth said he is "feeling good, feeling better," aside from "little headaches." He explained everything he could from his hellish final game of a 2016-17 season he would like to forget.

"I remember getting dizzy and my vision was a little off," he said. "I was seeing double. … The first thing I really remember was sitting in the locker room."

Neuvirth, who said he suffered a slight concussion and neck injury from the fall, was trying to play while still overcoming a sickness. Starting goalie Steve Mason was unavailable because of illness, while emergency call-up Anthony Stolarz was not yet in Philadelphia.

"I didn't feel good," he said. "I was battling flu or some cold, sinus virus for a few days. As a hockey player, you want to be tough, you want to play through injuries, through sickness. Sometimes you have to be smarter.

"It was kind of a tough situation with Mase sick, Stolie not even at the game. It was only me, the only goalie to play.

"I thought I could do it, I was drinking a lot of fluids, I had a good nap before the game and I thought I was good enough to go."

After being hospitalized and undergoing multiple tests, it's still uncertain if there was an exact cause to Neuvirth's fainting.

"Some of it [dehydration], fever," he said. "They don't really know. They did all the testing: they checked my heart, my lungs, they scanned my head. All the tests, the results were good. I'm healthy and that's really huge for me."

In a contract season, Neuvirth did not have the year he expected. Ironically, though, he got a two-year contract extension at the March 1 trade deadline. He missed nearly two months with a left knee injury, played only two full games after re-signing, and finished 11-11-1 with a 2.82 goals-against average and .891 save percentage. Among goalies with 15 or more games played, his save percentage was an NHL worst.

"It was extra pressure, contract year, all the speculating of who's the guy, who's not the guy," Neuvirth said. "But for me, I was trying to put all those things behind me and just try to focus on myself. I know it was a tough season for me, a lot of ups and downs. I know I can be better and more consistent than I was this year. I'm going to use this year as motivation and work hard in the summer and come back and be ready to go."

Despite his contract extension, Neuvirth's future remains somewhat murky, as is the Flyers' situation in net. Stolarz, 23, looks like the franchise's goalie in grooming. Mason, who turns 29 in May, can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 but said Tuesday general manager Ron Hextall wasn't ruling out keeping him on a new contract (see story).

Neuvirth, 29, could be exposed and selected in the June expansion draft as the NHL welcomes the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017-18. Vegas general manager George McPhee was GM of the Capitals when they selected Neuvirth in the second round of the 2006 entry draft.

It's unknown which players Hextall plans to protect or leave exposed. The Flyers' GM is scheduled to address the media on Thursday and that will be a topic of discussion.

Does Neuvirth think about it?

"Not really," he said. "It's out of my control. I have learned in this business that I can only focus on things that are in my control. For me, I am just going to go home, work hard and hope that come August, I'm going to be a Flyer.

"My mindset is that I'm coming back to play for the Flyers and that's what it is. I love the team here, I love the guys, it's a great organization. Even when I was getting sick here in the last week, they took such good care of me, starting from the trainers to the doctors -- just high class."

And Neuvirth believes he can return to 2015-16 form, his first season with the Flyers in which he went 18-8-4 with a 2.27 goals-against average and .924 save percentage, as well as 2-1-0 with 103 saves on 105 shots in the playoffs.

"That's my motivation," he said. "Just to prove to everyone that I can be the same goalie I was last year."

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