Because he hadn't played in a game in more than six months, veteran NHL goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov wanted to use his brief stay with the Oklahoma City Barons to determine how close he is to being ready for the NHL.
The 33-year-old Russian netminder looked much more ready Saturday night, recording 25 saves in Oklahoma City's 4-1 win over Abbotsford at the Cox Convention Center.
“This was a great opportunity,” Bryzgalov said. “We worked hard all week to catch the train to see where we are and where my game is. Last night was kind of clumsy, as expected. Tonight was much better. But there are still some things I need to work at.”
The Philadelphia Flyers released Bryzgalov from the final seven years of a $51 million deal. Ten days ago, Bryzgalov signed a one-year, $1.7-million deal with the Oilers. He's uncertain whether he'll report to Edmonton on Monday or play with the Barons Tuesday in San Antonio.
“Obviously with (NHL) teams having played 20 games, I'm catching up,” Bryzgalov said. “I trained in the gym, but they were in training camp two months ago. I need to take more shots, have a heavier workload.”
It was a good test for Bryzgalov. Abbotsford entered Saturday's game riding a nine-game winning streak, owned the best record in the 30-team American Hockey League and has scored an AHL-high 64 goals.
The Heat scored five goals against Bryzgalov to rally for a win Friday night, but the goalie with 208 career NHL wins stopped all but one shot Saturday night to end Abbotsford's three-week-long winning streak.