Blogs > In The Room with Anthony SanFilippo

Daily Times beat writer Anthony J. SanFilippo takes you inside the locker rooms of the Philadelphia Flyers and the rest of the NHL.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Some quick thoughts following the Flyers 3-1 preseason victory over the Islanders:

- Sergei Bobrovsky was impressive again. He had 32 more saves in this game to improve to 3-0-1 in the preseason with a 1.39 goals against average and a .952 save percentage.
Those numbers are a bit staggering, but considering the opposition Wednesday night, shouldn't be overvalued.

The Islanders only sent a group with six players with legit NHL experience for the game, ending the rest of their team to Sakatoon, Saskatchewan for a game against the Flames.

Therefore, it's not like Bob was getting boffo talent coming his way, still, he played well, especially in the third period when the Flyers went to sleep in front of him, and preserved a meaningless victory.

At this point, with just two preseason games left, it's starting to look like Bobrovsky might win the backup job on the big club since Johan Backlund still hasn't seen any action.

We'll see what the weekend has in store.

- Jeff Carter, Nik Zherdev and James van Riemsdyk continue to have strong camps. The played on three separate lines tonight, but all looked good again. Carter scored twice and JVR scored once. This will likely be the FLyers top offensive unit coming into the season.

- With Ian Laperiere on the shelf for a while, a roster spot is suddenly open. This is the most interesting battle in camp. It'll likely come down to Ben Holmstrom and Andreas Nodl for that spot with Nodl having a slight edge.

- Bill Guerin didn't play tonight, but it sounds like there is some uncertainty about his making the team. I still thin he's there and somebody else gets moved out - like Dan Carcillo or Darroll Powe - but there is a bit of grumbling that Guerin may not have impressed enough to earn a contract.

- As if the Flyers aren't deep enough on defense, Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson both played well in this one. I wouldn't be surprised if one or both of them surpass Matt Walker and Oskars Bartulis on the depth chart, meaning the Flyers will have another tough roster decision to make on the blue line.

- Both Ville Leino and Blair Betts were back in the lineup for the first time this preseason. Leino looked better than Betts, but both played well. Leino had two assists and was dominant the first period and a half before tiring out (not quite game ready after such a long layoff). He finished with two assists (and is the topic of my story tomorrow in the Daily Times). Betts was strong on the penalty kill - as always - but needs to work on faceoffs with his surgically repaired shoulder as he was unusually sub-par at the dots.

- This might mean very little or a lot, but the last player I want to mention is Braydon Coburn, who continues to play a nasty, physical style of game. He's hitting anything that moves, and tonight even mixed it up in a scrap with Jesse Joensuu. Coburn landed several good blows and bloodied Joensuu. If he keeps playing this way, he could be a force on the blue line for an extended period.

I will not be at the next two games, so the next time we chat will be opening night in Pittsburgh.

Until then, look for my Flyers and NHL previews (coming next week) and for some Flyers coverage this weekend from columnist Jack McCaffrey who is filling in.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Here is the transcript of an interview we conducted with Ian Laperriere earlier tonight. The guy is as stand up and honest as any I've ever covered:

Q: Looking back at the playoffs, was it wanting to play in a Final that led you to this, and do you regret it at all?

"I don't regret it. It's one of those things where the MRIs, everything was great, even the writing tests I did, everything was great, and I felt good. I went out there and I had headaches, but it's a hockey game. You get bumped around and you get headaches. That doesn't mean you have a concussion. I wanted to play, and I thought well, it's probably from my neck, I had neck issues in the past. I always found excuses. Maybe it was from me wearing a shield now and putting some strain on my neck. I always looked for something to explain my symptoms. But they didn't get any better in the summer, and it comes down to the real problem is probably coming from my head."

Q: Did the first preseason game cause any effects that led you to where you are now?

"Well, I didn't' feel right even skating with the boys before training camp started. It's one thing when you work out all summer and do your stuff. like I said, I was always finding a reason why I was feeling like that that day. Right before camp when I was skating with the other guys, I didn't feel 100 percent. I was always like, maybe I'm nervous for camp or maybe this, maybe that. But that first game, the New Jersey game, I didn't' feel myself out there. That's when I made my decision, when I was watching the game up in the press box in Toronto, just watching the game it kind of got me off a little bit, I didn't feel myself just because of the lights and everything. That's when I decided I had to talk to Jimmy and Homer, which I did the next day."

Q: Does the fact that a few months since it's happened and you're still dealing with these issues make you nervous that this might be a long-term thing?

"Yeah, maybe. Who knows. I risked it when I came on the ice and I didn't get popped again, maybe I did something - who knows. Nobody knows. That's why I put a stop to it. That's why I'm like, I can't risk my health out there more than I did already. I didn't want to go out there and get popped again or get hit again. That's my biggest fear. If I feel like that now, how am I going to feel the next time I get hit? Because the way I play, it's not if, it's when I'm going to get hit. That was one of my biggest fears. Now I think I made the right call by making sure I get better not only for hockey, but for the rest of my life."

Q: When will you go to Pittsburgh to see the doctor there?


Q: Did you talk to anyone else over the summer about this?

"No, you know what, I was still in denial this summer. That's the thing. I was lying to myself more than anybody. I feel bad that I didn't tell the Flyers, but to tell you the truth, I really thought I was 100 percent. I was feeling the symptoms, but I was finding excuses for every single one of them. At the end, I was lying to myself and to the Flyers."

Q: Did you confide in your wife at all about the headaches?

"Quite a bit. But again, I would say maybe I'm dehydrated, I should drink more, maybe I did too much today, maybe I didn't have enough sleep, maybe the dog woke me up. when you want to play, you're always finding excuses. I know there's people who are going to say he's crazy, why would you do that, but you have to put yourself in my shoes. I've been in this league a long time and I've never been close like I was last year. For sure that pushed me to play, especially when all the test results came back normal. I 'm like you know what, I'll deal with the headaches, I want to play so bad. I know some people are going to judge me on that, but they gotta be careful because they're not in my shoes and they'll never be in my shoes. They don't know what I went through all my life just to get there. For me to miss the opportunity to play in the semifinals and the finals, it would take a lot. Obviously it was a brain injury, but in my case all the tests came back normal and I felt pretty good, so I thought, I gotta go back. So some people are going to judge me, but oh well. That's my decision and I'll live with the consequences."

Q: Do you feel like this is your last chance to get this right?

"Yeah. There's no doubt in my mind I'm staying out till I'm 100 percent. What scares me the most is getting hit again, and what am I going to be next? Am I going to be a miserable guy? I don't want to be like that. I want to be myself when I leave this game. I feel like if I get popped again or hit again or punched. the way I play. I just can't be a 50-goal scorer. I'd love to, but I just can't change my game right now. I can't come back 90 percent, I've got to come back 100 percent."



One day after Paul Holmgren said he wasn’t too concerned about Michael Leighton’s back injury, the Flyers’ general manager was forced to call a press conference to announce the injury will sideline the Flyers No. 1 goalie for a month.

“Michael saw another doctor (Monday) night and another this morning and he is dealing with a bulging disc in his back that will put him on the shelf for a month," Holmgren said.

Leighton, who strained his back during a workout last month, has also been dealing with arthritis in his lower back.

Holmgren added surgery was likely not an option, and the disc is not herniated. This means goaltending duties for the first month of the season will fall to Brian Boucher, Johan Backlund, or Russian camp sensation Sergei Bobrovsky, who will start in goal tonight in an exhibition game in New Jersey.

Another shocking development is that Ian Laperriere will be out of action indefinitely as he is suffering from post-concussion symptoms.

He will undergo a litany of tests this week and an update is expected next week on his condition.

“He came to me Saturday and expressed concerns with how he was feeling,” Holmgren said. “He never let on over the course of the summer about how he was feeling, but Saturday he said he wasn’t completely honest with how he felt and he was trying to work through some things.

“The prudent thing for us now is to get him checked out properly to see what we’re dealing with.”

Laperriere missed most of the playoffs after taking a slapshot to the head from then-New Jersey Devil Paul Martin as Laperriere went down to block the shot.

He returned for the Stanley Cup Finals despite having a dark spot on his brain that initially bled from the impact of the puck.

As for the goalie situation, Holmgren added that it would be monitored over the course of the final four preseason games and that two of the three goalies would start the season with the Flyers, barring any further injuries.

Holmgren added that finances would not be a concern as all three goalies are similar in salaries as far as the cap is concerned.

Boucher’s cap hit is the most at $925,000, followed by Bobrovsky at $900,000 (He actually earns $1.75 million while in the NHL, but the remainder is part of a bonus cushion) and Backlund makes $800,000.

More to come later today from New Jersey and in tomorrow’s edition of the Daily Times.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Here are some random brain droppings (RIP George Carlin) from me regarding the first Flyers preseason game this season - a 4-3 shootout (ugh!) victory over the New Jersey Devils and the (insert bank name here) Center.

- Jeff Carter's new hair color makes him look like Ice Man from "Top Gun"

- Nik Zherdev can really skate and the puck follows him around - too bad he doesn't follow it back into his own zone. Oh... and after a knee-on-knee collision at the end of the first period, he was pretty much MIA.

- Speaking of MIA, did anyone see Bill Guerin? Quiet night for the veteran here on a - ahem - tryout. Hey, I'm rooting for Bill. He's one of only three guys in camp who are actually older than me (Lappy - who only has me beat by 25 days - and Sean O'Donnell are the others... I root for them too). It makes me feel young still when there are guys older than me still playing pro sports. That's why I like guys like Jamie Moyer and Mark Brunell.

- Jeff Carter on the wing is something I'd like to see more. While it might happen here and there, I'm thinking Claude Giroux is the center who will ultimately spend more time on the wing than any other.

- I like Ben Holmstrom's game. He's like a pinball out there - just with much more control. It says something about him that the coaches put him in the lineup with all the veterans as opposed to any other rookie skater. He won't make the roster (barring injuries) out of camp, but he's likely to be atop the call-up list. Look for more on him in the Wednesday edition of the Daily Times or on

- Michael Leighton was really good at times, a little shaky at others. In other words, not much has changed since June. Still... with the defense the Flyers are going to put in front of him he will be more than serviceable.

- I was looking for more from Andreas Nodl. He was o.k., but just o.k. I believe he has an NHL future, just like the Flyers' brass, but he's going to need to ramp it up (as he did during his brief playoff stint last season) if he wants to win the last forward spot on the roster.

- Matt Walker and Jody Shelley each got into a scrap with Pierre-Luc Letourneau-LeBlond, or as I call him, PL-cubed. Walker got his butt kicked. Shelley landed some good shots early, but tired out during a lengthy bout, and the fight became a draw by the end.

- Braydon Coburn was really physical - which is how he has to play with his size - he led the team in hits with six - and took a boarding penalty too.

-Oskars Bartulis played 22:50 and was a minus-1. He was inconsistent, winning a couple nice battles (he had three takeaways) but was caught on the ice for some of the Devils best scoring chances. That mediocre play isn't going to cut it if he wants to beat out the ultra-steady O'Donnell or Walker.

-I don't think I even knew Andrej Meszaros was in the lineup. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

- Sergei Bobrovsky wasn't tested much - he faced seven regulation shots and four more in a shootout. Of those, only two stood out - a sliding pad stop from post-to-post on Jamie Langenbrunner and a glove save on Jason Arnott on a breakaway.
More on him in the Holmstrom story - but he does have elite quickness. Arnott got revenge in the shootout - scoring five-hole. None of the shootout saves were anything special - two were shot right into his pads and one missed the net completely. Fine performance, but a limited sample.

- Finally, my first stick-my-neck-out prediction - Danny Briere will have his best season as a Flyer. He looks to be in great shape, he's skating faster than ever, and he's still got a great shot. His goal that tied the game was a seed. If he stays healthy - I can see 35-50-85 from Briere. No lie.


Saturday, September 18, 2010


Training camp opened today for the Flyers with plenty of fervor. Close to 2000 fans packed Skate Zone to get a glimpse of the defending Eastern conference Champions.

The first group of the morning was the top players - minus Chris Pronger who is still rehabbing an injured knee.

Ville Leino and Blair Betts were out there, but were limited.

Here were the lines Peter Laviolette went with:

van Riemsdyk-Carter-Zherdev




Expect Betts to replace Powe, Leino in Guerin's spot and Guerin in place of Carcillo if all are healthy, but that's where it'll begin Tuesday - assuming they all play in the preseason opener.

As for the defense, the pairs were:




Laviolette said he was happy with the speed and the skating but said the team needs to work on puck possession and passing. Of course, one would expect those elements of the game to be a little sloppy in the first practice of the season.

Look for a story from me on Nik Zherdev tomorrow (can we give the guy a chance please before we kill him?), and video later today on of Laviolette, Carter and Guerin talking about the first day.

Also, a bit of news here:

Blair Betts had minor knee surgery three weeks ago and that, along with the shoulder surgery he had earlier in the summer is what's keeping him from contact. Paul Holmgren said Betts remains on schedule to return. One team source said the shoulder feels a lot better and that the knee is what remains gimpy.

Ville Leino told us he has about another week before he's cleared for contact.

Chris Pronger said he'll update us on his condition tomorrow.

Stay tuned.