NHL approves Flyers’ request to extend Michael Leighton’s rehab stint; team plans on going with three goalies soon

The Philadelphia Flyers have been to goalies what George Clooney is to beautiful women. The cast of characters seems to change on a whim, yet the results are often surprisingly productive regardless of whomever dons the pads.

(Um, not to say that Clooney’s ladies need pads. I’m talking about goalie pads, folks. Moving on.)

Last season, the Flyers’ goalies dropped like flies to the point that their two mainstay netminders ending up being journeyman goalie Brian Boucher and Carolina Hurricanes outcast Michael Leighton. Each goalie had his moments during the Flyers’ improbable run to the Stanley Cup finals, though Leighton seemed to shine the brightest because he helped Philly come back from a 3-0 deficit against the Boston Bruins in the conference finals.

Such a run helped Leighton earn another contract with the team, yet holding true to the Flyers’ unending soap opera in net, he ended up needing back surgery at the worst time – right before this season was about to begin.

His injury opened the door for little known Russian rookie Sergei Bobrovsky, who took advantage of that opportunity with resounding aplomb. “Bob” sports a 14-4-2 record with a sparkling 92.5 save percentage and fantastic 2.21 GAA. Boucher hasn’t been quite as strong in net, but is still a solid backup at a low price point.

Which brings us back to Leighton, suddenly the odd man out in Philly because of that back injury and Bobrovsky’s unexpected climb into the Calder Trophy race. The Flyers must soon confront what exactly to do with their big should-be starter, but the good news is that they bought themselves an extra week to figure something out.

For the last six days, Leighton has been trying to get his legs underneath him via a conditioning stint with the Adirondack Phantoms. Neither Leighton nor the Flyers felt that he was ready for NHL action after his two appearances with the Phantoms (0-2, 87.5 save percentage and 3.55 GAA), so Flyers GM Paul Holmgren asked for an extension on his rehab assignment. The NHL approved that extension, according to Stephen Whyno of the Philadelphia Sports Daily.

Per the league’s collective bargaining agreement, a player can spend at most six days or three games on a conditioning assignment unless an extension is filed and approved. That happened Monday, so Leighton will get to play two more American Hockey League games for the Phantoms before the Flyers face a decision.

Leighton said despite lingering pain from a nerve issue in his foot that he felt good about how the conditioning stint went. But he met with Holmgren and goalie coach Jeff Reese Monday morning and they decided it wouldn’t be smart to bring him back at less than 100 percent.

“I don’t wanna come back if I’m not 100 percent,” Leighton said Monday. “I think in a way I could come back right now, but I probably won’t be 100 percent.”

When Leighton is ready to return, the Flyers will have to make a corresponding roster move to fit him under the salary cap. But Holmgren said that move will likely not be getting rid of a goalie, which means Sergei Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher and Leighton would all be on the roster.

The Flyers will likely have to make an uncomfortable move or two to accommodate Leighton’s $1.55 million cap hit and then would need to deal with the added discomfort of rolling with three goalies. Still, deciding which of 2-3 competent goalies to start is an “issue” few expected Philadelphia to deal with, so beggars cannot be choosers. I guess.

The Buzzer: Malkin paces Penguins, Vegas keeps on winning

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Player of the night: Evgeni Malkin

Evgeni Malkin helped get things started for the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, and then he finished the game off with the overtime winner to send the New York Rangers to a fourth consecutive loss.

Malkin scored once, added three assists and even dropped the gloves in a 5-4 overtime victory, as the Penguins came back with a late — and crafty — third period goal from Sidney Crosby.

Talk about the Penguins being opportunistic on the winner. Off a defensive zone faceoff win for the Rangers, Ryan McDonagh made a terrible giveaway right beside his own net, giving the puck to Phil Kessel, who slipped it over to Malkin for the quick one-timer.

Highlight of the night:

There were a few candidates for this tonight. Phil Kessel once again showed off that tremendous wrist shot. Thomas Vanek decided to blast a slap shot on a breakaway, going post and in against the Senators. Nikita Kucherov had a perfect shot against Cory Schneider after previously setting up teammate Vladislav Namestnikov for a pretty goal versus the Devils. Yes, there were a few options.

But, we’ll go back to Winnipeg for this one. Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson not only protects the puck from Jacob Trouba on the breakaway, but then dekes out Steve Mason with the move to the forehand.

Factoid of the night:

The Vegas Golden Knights won again, giving them a 5-1 record to begin their inaugural season. That puts them in elite company.

Scores:

New Jersey 5, Tampa Bay 4 (SO)

San Jose 5, Montreal 2

Pittsburgh 5, New York 4 (OT)

Philadelphia 5, Florida 1

Toronto 2, Washington 0

Vancouver 3, Ottawa 0

Nashville 4, Colorado 1

Columbus 5, Winnipeg 2

Dallas 3, Arizona 1

Vegas 5, Buffalo 4 (OT)

Carolina 5, Edmonton 3

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Sharks send Habs to their fifth straight loss

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Make that five straight losses for the Montreal Canadiens.

Jonathan Drouin had a goal and an assist on Shea Weber‘s power play blast, giving the Habs center a two-point night. That’s one of the few bright spots, as Montreal lost by a score of 5-2 to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.

This was a battle of two teams struggling to start the new season, with each sitting on only one victory. For the Habs, that victory was back on Oct. 5 in their season opener against Buffalo.

Since then, however . . .

And it isn’t about to get any easier for the Habs. This was the start of a stretch that includes three games in four nights against the bruising California teams — the Sharks tonight, the Kings tomorrow, and the Ducks on Friday. It could still get worse before it gets better.

For the Sharks, who were led Tuesday by Logan Couture‘s four-point performance and Joe Pavelski‘s first goal of the season, they end their five-game home stand on a positive note after losing three of the previous four games.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Wayne Simmonds leaves Flyers game for ‘precautionary reasons’ with lower-body issue

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The Philadelphia Flyers earned a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, thanks to a four-goal outburst in the second period.

And Philly forward Wayne Simmonds earned a decision over Micheal Haley in a quick fight during that middle frame, too.

While the Flyers got the win, the news wasn’t all good with respect to Simmonds, however, as he was removed from the game for precautionary reasons because of a lower-body issue, the team announced.

Beyond that, the Flyers said they will know more about his status by either tomorrow or Thursday. That puts a bit of a damper on the win.

Not only is the 29-year-old Simmonds one of the toughest players in the league, unafraid to drop the gloves or throw big hits from time to time, but he’s an important part of Philadelphia’s offensive attack, as well. A productive member of the power play, he’s flirted with the 30-goal mark on three occasions while in Philly and reached that mark in each of the past two seasons.

And he’s done that on a contract that includes an annual cap hit of just under $4 million.

Simmonds was also off to a strong start in 2017-18 with five goals and seven points in six games.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Rangers’ losing streak continues with OT defeat vs. Penguins

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The New York Rangers needed a win.

Their slow start is among the surprises early this season, as the Rangers have now lost four in a row with only one win to their record through seven games so far. They’ve had trouble scoring. Mistakes at inopportune moments have been costly.

Facing the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, the Rangers had a brutal start and a brutal finish in a 5-4 overtime loss to their Metropolitan Division foes.

Phil Kessel scored just 43 seconds into the game, utilizing that dangerous wrist shot off the rush to beat Henrik Lundqvist top corner. By the end of one period, it was 2-0 Pittsburgh.

Despite a second-period comeback, with three goals in under three minutes, and taking the lead in the third period, the Rangers couldn’t hang on and the Penguins won in overtime.

Sidney Crosby scored a crafty tying goal with only 56 seconds remaining in regulation, waiting for the Rangers defender to touch the puck negating what would’ve likely been called a hand pass on Pittsburgh before firing a no-look backhander toward the net from behind the red line. The puck deflected in off Lundqvist, helping send this one to overtime.

Evgeni Malkin capped off a four-point night with the overtime winner.

“Right now it’s a little bit challenging as far as putting a whole game together for us,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault following the game. “But this group is very accountable … and I’m very confident that if we keep doing a lot of the things we’re doing right now, we’re going to be on the right track.”

A trio of Rangers recorded their first goals of the season. That included David Desharnais, Michael Grabner and Pavel Buchnevich, although the latter played less than 10 minutes on Tuesday, despite nearly four minutes in power play time, and of course the goal.

The Rangers host the New York Islanders on Thursday. Another loss, and one has to wonder how hot the seat may be getting under Vigneault.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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