Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I was saying Boo-urns 1/16

The Philadelphia Flyers placed newly-acquired goaltender Brian Boucher on waivers Wednesday afternoon for the purpose of assigning the 36-year-old to the Adirondack Phantoms.

But Boucher is already in Glens Falls.

He practiced with the Phantoms Wednesday morning at the Civic Center, though he technically can't be placed on Adirondack's roster until he clears waivers. That's expected to happen at noon Thursday, but there's always the chance that he could get picked up by an NHL team.

However, is there a team  that would grab him? Boucher played 10 games last season and went 1-6-1, then did not really play at all during the lockout. He did skate with some Flyers at the team's practice facility in Voorhees, N.J., and that's where the Associated Press snapped the above photo of him.

But Boucher said Wednesday's Phantoms practice was his first real hockey practice since last April. Part of the reason he's being assigned to the Phantoms is to get him ready to return to the NHL if Ilya Bryzgalov or Michael Leighton get injured or need to be otherwise spelled between the Flyers' pipes.

If he clears waivers, he's still not exactly sure when he would feel comfortable getting into a game. There is some rust that he needs to shake off, Boucher admitted, but he's happy to be back practicing.

"There's some work to do," he said of his conditioning level. "We were skating back in the Philly area with five, six guys. We tried to push ourselves the best we could, but with five, six guys it's hard."

Furthermore, he said he really hasn't skated at all in the past week because he was in limbo there after the Carolina Hurricanes, his former team, told him to stay at home and not report to camp. Focused on that in tomorrow's print story. He's had a bit of a more tumultuous week than many NHLers.

When there was the possibility that Boucher was coming to the Phantoms, I blogged about what might happen to Adirondack's goaltending situation. Then Terry Murray said he's coached teams with three goalies and if that's the case, one of them usually sits during practice while the others get reps.

Wednesday, we learned that Scott Munroe will be that odd man out if Boucher clears. The Phantoms will go with the Boucher-Cal Heeter tandem as soon as Boucher is good to play, Murray said.

"You make it work," Murray said. "You have to have two goaltenders that are going to be ready to play. Brian Boucher is here to get him ready to play back in the NHL, play games in the NHL, so he'll be in the net in practice and we'll get him into games as soon as he gets comfortable with his game and same thing with Heeter. We're going to keep him going and he's going to take a big part of the practice as we go through it."

Munroe will get some work before and after practice and there's a chance he will have a chance to jump in on a couple of drills, but Murray has already had a talk with Munroe about the situation.

"We need to get Boucher into the net, through the full practice and ready to play," Murray said. "That's just the circumstances of what it is right now."

Which begs the question -- why sit Munroe over Heeter? Is it because Heeter has better stats of late?

"No, that's not the reason at all," Murray said. "It's a young goaltender who came in playing his first year of pro and we're going to keep going with him. We're going to push him. I see improvement from the first day of the training camp. I saw improvement as we got here to Glens Falls from the camp. The season start to this point, he's improved his hockey game. Clearly, if he's a young player and he's not capable of playing at all, then move him out and somebody else steps in and plays, but his approach, his professionalism, his work ethic, his competitiveness has pushed his game to the next level. He's becoming better."

I think you can conclude Heeter probably has more of an upside to the Flyers organization at this point. He's a big, acrobatic goaltender who is capable of covering a lot of the net. Also, he's only 24. And one of the more proven dynamics at any level of hockey is pairing a veteran goalie with a rookie. If one of your goalies has to be Boucher, a veteran, it makes sense to keep dressing Heeter.

Murray said he thinks both can learn from Boucher, who has 324 games of NHL experience.

Munroe had a chance to do that during the 2007-08 season, when they both played for the Philadelphia Phantoms, but Murray said there's always an opportunity for goaltenders to learn more.

"I think this is a real good thing for the goaltenders," Murray said. "It's a good thing for Scotty Munroe also. He's going to be able to -- I'm sure -- pick something up that maybe was missing and he can become a better goaltender as a result of that."

Boucher said he's not afraid to offer some words of wisdom to younger goalies,.

"Often times it's when things aren't going well," Boucher said. "Typically, when things are going well, everybody's feeling good about themselves. It's when maybe you hit a little bump in the road. At times, we can all lose perspective of what the objective is and what we're trying to do. I think with experience, that's something you can shed some light on to these young guys. There's going to be bad days. There's going to be bad weeks. You have to keep plugging away and hopefully at the end of the day, you've improved and become a better pro and put yourself in a better position to potentially get to the National Hockey League, which is everybody's goal."

Heeter now is in a unique spot where he has two veterans to whom he can look up.

"I always have my eyes open, ears open," Heeter said. "Try to listen to what they say, watch what they do. Just learn how they carry themselves, what they do on the ice, off the ice, how they approach the game as a professional, the maintenance they do on their body every day. I think it's just going to be that much more of a learning experience for me. It'll be great."

There's also going to be some competition involved for the No. 2 spot, Heeter feels. Just because they've announced that it'll be him and Boucher right now doesn't necessarily mean it'll stay that way. Not all that different from when he beat out Niko Hovinen for the spot with the Phantoms in October.

"I have to continue to work on my game, have good starts when I get them and above all I'm a good team guy," Heeter said. "This isn't a guaranteed spot. I have to make sure I earn my keep and get to stay where I'm at."

I've got a Phantoms practice notebook that's running in print tomorrow, but I'll include it here too:

Waving hello?

Brian Boucher was not the only player the Philadelphia Flyers placed on waivers Wednesday.

Veteran defenseman Andreas Lilja was also waived, which gives the Flyers the option of assigning him to the Adirondack Phantoms if no other National Hockey League team claims him by noon Thursday.

Lilja, 37, has 87 points in 576 NHL games, but fell to eighth on Philadelphia’s depth chart after the Flyers signed Kurtis Foster on the opening day of training camp Sunday. Most teams carry seven defensemen.

The Swede rehabbed with the Phantoms in December while rehabbing from offseason hip surgery, but was never technically on Adirondack’s roster and did not appear in any games. He last routinely played in the AHL during the 2000-01 campaign, when he had 35 points in 61 games for the Lowell Lock Monsters.

McGinn again

The Flyers also re-assigned left wing Tye McGinn to the Adirondack Phantoms Wednesday afternoon.

McGinn began his second professional season with the Phantoms, but the 22-year-old earned an invitation to Philadelphia’s training camp after scoring nine goals and 13 points in 30 AHL games.

But the Flyers need to cut down to a 23-man roster by 3 p.m. Friday. Of the 15 forwards remaining in NHL camp, McGinn was one of the few that did not have to clear waivers to be assigned to the Phantoms.

Forwards Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Zac Rinaldo and Eric Wellwood remain in camp with the Flyers. Of the four, Wellwood is the most likely to be sent back to the AHL, but he may earn a NHL spot.

Hero Hostetter

Phantoms defenseman Tyler Hostetter made the most of his one-game trip to the ECHL Wednesday.

He assisted on the game-winning goal as the Trenton Titans downed the Reading Royals 4-3 in overtime.

Hostetter, called up from the Titans after the NHL lockout ended, was sent back to the ECHL because the Titans were short on blueliners after Marcel Alvarez, an active second lieutenant in the Army, left the Titans for Ranger school in Fort Benning, Ga. Hostetter has already been returned to Adirondack’s roster.

Konan back skating

Rookie defenseman Matt Konan practiced Wednesday for the first time since Jan. 2, when he collided with the boards during a practice drill. He wore a no-contact jersey and did an off-ice workout, but coach Terry Murray said Konan likely won’t play this weekend as he needs to build up his conditioning.

Until next time,
MC

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