Flyers goalie Michael Leighton hurts back, time to worry in Philadelphia?

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michaelleighton2.jpgLost in last night’s game action, Flyers goalie Michael Leighton left last night’s preseason game against the Maple Leafs after playing 65 minutes worth of game action with a strained back. With Leighton having played through most of the game, missing out only on the shootout, speculation is picking up amongst Flyers faithful about how serious things could be. Philly.com’s Frank Seravalli gets word from Flyers GM Paul Holmgren about what’s up with Leighton’s back including one stunning revelation.

“We’ll see how he is [today],” Holmgren said. “But we probably really won’t know what’s going on until we get back to Philadelphia and get him checked out.”

While Holmgren is optimistic that Leighton will be fine by next week some time, he also revealed that this isn’t the first time Leighton suffered the injury; he just re-aggravated it last night.

Leighton apparently strained his back this summer while exercising. It was unclear whether he suffered the injury before or after signing a 2-year, $3.1 million deal on June 30.

“He had some issues in the summer from working out that kind of flared up on him,” Holmgren said. “But since training camp started, no, it hasn’t been an issue. That’s why we’re hoping that it’s a short-term thing.”

So, let’s get this straight. The Flyers re-signed Leighton after a great playoff run, then found out either before or after the free agent signing period began and still opted to not make absolutely sure they were going to have more-than-capable goaltending this season.

That sound you hear is coming from Flyers fans bashing their head into the wall yet again when it comes to the team’s puzzling personnel decisions regarding goaltending. Travis Hughes at Broad Street Hockey doesn’t trust the Flyers as far as he can throw them when it comes to discussing injuries.

Seravalli notes that if it’s causing Leighton problems after just three periods of game action, are we in for something long-term here? I tend to agree with his skepticism, if nothing else. After all, how many times has an injury been downplayed off the bat by the Flyers, only to find out later that yeah, it was indeed something serious.

I don’t trust what the Flyers have to say when it comes to injuries anymore, and this is no exception.

All of a sudden, the Flyers missed attempt at landing Marty Turco in the off-season and seeming lack of contingency plan starts to look even more questionable if Leighton is going to be dealing with a potentially nagging injury all year. The Flyers are only rolling with Brian Boucher as Leighton’s backup and while there are a couple of intriguing young guys waiting in the wings in Johan Backlund and Sergei Bobrovsky, for a team that made the Stanley Cup Finals last year to think they can get away with that kind of motley crew in goal is daring if not just plain stupid.

Then again, if there’s anything that’s been an undeniable truth in life over the years for the Flyers it’s questionable goaltending. Death, taxes, and Garth Snow starting Stanley Cup Finals games. Perhaps Flyers fans are just numb to all of this by now.

Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

Update:

Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

“When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

“He does everything for us.”

Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.

 

After ‘great’ senior year, Pens sign Union standout Taylor

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Pittsburgh wasted little time in getting Jeff Taylor in the mix.

Taylor, the Union College senior defenseman who had his collegiate career end over the weekend, signed a two-year, entry-level deal on Monday, and also inked an ATO to join the club’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Taylor, the club’s seventh-round pick in 2014, enjoyed a career year at Union, helping the Dutchmen advance to the NCAA Tournament by setting career highs in goals (9) and points (33) in 38 games.

Back in December, Pens assistant GM Bill Guerin spoke glowingly about Taylor’s last collegiate campaign, saying he was in the midst of a “great” senior season.

“This is a kid we’ve been looking forward to getting since we drafted him,” Guerin said, per the Post-Gazette. “I remember his first development camp, everybody was like, ‘Oh, wow, look at this kid. He can move the puck, he can skate, he’s quick. He thinks the game well.’ And it hasn’t stopped.

“He’s an undersized guy, but he has the ability to get himself out of trouble because he’s got great feet and he thinks the game well.”