Michal Neuvirth Has First Full Practice Since Injury as Return to Flyers Nears

VOORHEES, N.J. – Michal Neuvirth says he feels pretty good and that he wants to be activated off long-term injury reserve.
The Flyers' backup goaltender 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.
Yet if you read into coach Dave Hakstol's words after Tuesday's practice, it may not happen until after Wednesday's game against the Rangers.
While Neuvirth has been taking more and more practice time with the team, Tuesday marked his first long practice. 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, 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.
"That's his first full day of practice and obviously, we still have three goaltenders out there. So it wasn't the full workload."
Indeed, rookie Anthony Stolarz is still here and took practice with Neuvirth and Steve Mason, the latter of whom will be the starter when the New York 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 has played 21 of the 23 games since Stolarz has been here (Nov. 15).
Stolarz may not play again, either before he's eventually sent back to the Phantoms when Neuvirth is ready to go. 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 has been 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."

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