By Michael Blinn
The Edmonton Oilers made it officially official on Sunday, recalling goalie Ilya Bryzgalov from their AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City.
It's been a rough few months for the embattled net minder, who was bought out by the Flyers in the offseason, was unable to catch on with a team in training camp and spent a short stint practicing in the ECHL before the Oilers problems forced them to add 'Bryz.'
The enigmatic goalie started two games for the AHL's Barons, getting shelled in a 5-4 loss on Friday, and bouncing back with a 25-save effort for a 4-1 win on Saturday. Edmonton hopes he can rectify an awful goaltending situation up north that has seen incumbent Devan Dubnyk post a 4-10-1 record to go along with a .354 GAA and .889 Sv%.
Dubnyk, the team's first-round pick in 2004, showed flashes of brilliance in his first four pro seasons, finally allowing the Oilers to let his safety net in Nikolai Khabibulin to walk away as a free agent after last season, but the 6-foot-6 goalie has struggled behind a young team that can't seem to find chemistry admidst youth and free agent signings. He certainly has the size and talent to star in the NHL ranks, but he can't be expected to do it alone for a team that's giving up 31 shots per game to its opponents.
Edmonton remains in the cellar as the League's second-worst team with a 5-15-2 record, and with the team's young stars growing tired of answering for the lack of results. Perhaps it was that frustration bubbling over, or the idea of playing the rival Flames (who are also struggling, but appear to at least have a plan in Calgary), but the Oilers put a five-game losing streak to bed on Saturday with a 4-2 win.
While Bryzgalov has had his share of success at the NHL, he may not be the answer up in Edmonton, after all, the Flyers did pay him $23 million to not be their goaltender this season. He starred in Dave Tippett's system in Phoenix, but was unable to replicate the success in a mess in Philadelphia, despite the team trading away future Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky to make room for his seven-year $51 million deal.
If it's not success, there's one thing 'Bryz' will bring with him to Alberta: a propensity for being a funny, quotable player who isn't afraid to off the beaten path with interviews. If that that reason only, everyone should be glad the NHL's spaceman back.