Is Ilya Bryzgalov banged up because the Coyotes give him too many starts?

On some level, I’m starting to wonder if a team’s backup goalie ranks as the most underrated asset (or weakness) in the NHL.

Simply put, having a decent rotation brings plenty of benefits. Sure, it’s possible that you might tweak the ego of your franchise guy (or your mediocre goalie in franchise goalie’s pads), but we’re talking about the highest pressure position in hockey. Thick skin is practically a job requirement.

Ultimately, having a good backup pushes your top guy to avoid prolonged spans of mediocrity and also allows teams to reduce the odds that a No.1 goalie will suffer from wear-and-tear injuries, particularly of the groin/leg/”lower body” variety.

Apologies to Jason LaBarbera, but the Phoenix Coyotes seem like they’re paying a little bit for their uneven distribution of labor in net. Counting LaBarbera’s likely start tonight, Ilya Bryzgalov started 26 out of Phoenix’s first 31 games in 2010-11.

After beginning the season with a reasonable three starts for Breezy/ one start for the Barber rotation, the Coyotes leaned heavily on their quirky Russian goalie since mid-November. Just look at the team’s pattern (beginning on November 12):

Eight starts for Bryzgalov (6-2-0); one start for LaBarbera (1-0); five starts for Bryzgalov (2-2-1). For non-math majors like myself, he played in 13 out of Phoenix’s 14 games in that span, including two sets of back-to-back games.

The Coyotes originally said that he was scratched from Thursday’s game against the New York Rangers because of flu symptoms, but Jim Gintonio reports that Bryzgalov is also dealing with “an upper body injury” sustained during Wednesday’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who was scratched  Thursday night against the  Rangers  because of the flu, also has an upper body injury and returned to Phoenix for treatment before Saturday’s game against the Islanders.

The injury, which Bryzgalov sustained  Wednesday in New Jersey,  is not believed to be serious.

Gintonio reports that the team expects Bryzgalov to practice with the team on the Tuesday.

Now, it’s quite possible that Bryzgalov is banged up just by chance. Yet when you look at injuries sustained by workhorse goalies such as Martin Brodeur, Ryan Miller and Craig Anderson so far this season, I cannot help but wonder if their teams should be a bit more scrupulous regarding their workloads. It reminds me of the wisdom of a MLB manager limiting an ace’s pitches or an NFL coach being wary of giving a running back receiving too many carries; if they care about the player’s health, they’ll be much more likely to keep them fresh in the long run.

Of course, when you play in the muddled, tiny-margin-of-error West, every LaBarbera start is a big gamble. Then again, sometimes short term pains (a so-so record when “The Barber” starts) trump long-term losses (losing Bryzgalov for extended periods of time).

Scary moment: Carlo Colaiacovo hospitalized with ‘dented trachea’


Buffalo Sabres defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo has experienced plenty of bad injury luck in his winding career, but Saturday presented one of his worst scares.

As you can see from the video above, Colaiacovo received a scary cross-check from Viktor Arvidsson of the Nashville Predators, who received a major penalty and game misconduct.

Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma said that Colaiacovo was hospitalized with a “dented trachea” yet is OK, the Buffalo News’ John Vogl reports.

Frightening stuff from an eventual 4-1 Sabres win.

PHT will keep an eye out for additional updates regarding Colaiacovo’s health (and a possible suspension for Arvidsson).

Comeback Kings: Gaborik pulls L.A. past Kane, Blackhawks

Jake Muzzin, Scott Darling

Patrick Kane set an American scoring record, and added another assist to make it more impressive, but the Los Angeles Kings just wouldn’t be denied.

In the end, Marian Gaborik‘s big night meant more than Kane’s; he scored the tying and then overtime game-winner, both assisted by Anze Kopitar, for a rousing 4-3 overtime Kings win.

Gaborik’s first goal:

And here’s video of the OT-GWG:

Noticing a theme tonight? Yeah, it’s been an evening in which it’s dangerous to assume a lead would stand.

With that, the Kings stick to the No. 1 spot in the Pacific Division, but Chicago shouldn’t feel all bad. The Blackhawks were able to piece together a decent run during their dreaded “circus trip.”

Patrick Kane’s streak hits 19 games, setting a new American record


When it comes to point streaks for U.S.-born NHL players, Patrick Kane now stands alone.

With a power-play goal early in Saturday’s Blackhawks – Kings game, Kane extended his streak to 19 games, breaking a tie with Phil Kessel and Eddie Olczyk (who finished with at least a point in 18 straight).

As of this writing, Kane has 11 goals and 19 assists during this 19-game streak. He also leads the NHL in scoring.

Bobby Hull’s 21-game point streak stands as the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall team record, by the way.

So, how would you protect a lead against the Stars?


You know what they say: it’s easy to bash a strategy in hindsight.

Slam that NFL head coach for going for it on fourth down … or settling for the field goal. Bury that MLB manager because he kept a pitcher in too long. And so on.

“Score effects” settle in during almost any lopsided hockey game, yet the Dallas Stars present quite a conundrum: what’s the best way to put a way a team with this much firepower?

Tonight may have presented the greatest evidence that this team won’t go away easy, as it seemed like the Minnesota Wild had the best of a tired Stars team* when they built a 3-0 lead.

Instead, the Stars scored three third-period goals while Tyler Seguin capped the comeback with an overtime-winner.

It was one of those bend-and-then-break moments for Minnesota. Dallas generated a 44-26 shot advantage, including a ridiculous 35-15 edge in the final two periods.

Does that mean that Mike Yeo may have tried to play too conservatively with a healthy lead? It’s a possibility.

On the other hand, would the Wild be wiser to try to run-and-gun with one of the most dangerous offenses in the NHL?

It sure seems like a pick-your-poison situation. Which way would you lean, though?

* – To be fair to Minnesota, each team was on back-to-backs.