The Edmonton Oilers host the Florida Panthers tonight at Rexall, which means a reunion of former Coyotes teammates Ilya Bryzgalov and Scottie Upshall.
It doesn’t sound like the reunion will be all that friendly, though.
On Thursday, Upshall aired criticisms of Bryzgalov from the three seasons they spent together in Phoenix, acknowledging that — while a very talented goalie — Bryzgalov wasn’t an ideal teammate.
“There were a couple of incidents where he wasn’t happy with the way our team played in front of him and he did a few things that caused us to say something to him and put him in his place,” Upshall told the Florida Sun-Sentinel. “[He called us out] in not a very professional way.
“We had to take care of him because it wasn’t always about him. It was about the team.”
While Upshall said Bryzgalov was “unbelievable” in Phoenix and “a helluva goalie,” especially during his Vezina-nominated 2009-10 campaign, he suggested the Russian netminder greatly benefited from Phoenix’s defensive system and that, heading into his contract year, Bryzgalov’s main motivation wasn’t just wins and team success.
“There’s no question he probably played a little harder knowing that he was coming into free agency,” Upshall explained (Bryzgalov went on to sign a nine-year, $51 million deal with Philly). “Right now he’s in a spot where he has to prove himself again.”
As for tonight? Upshall says his time playing with and against Bryzgalov will help in figuring him out.
“He doesn’t like traffic, he doesn’t like guys in his face,” Upshall explained. “If you get under his skin he gets off his game.”