Flyers-Coyotes Preview

The Associated Press

Ilya Bryzgalov already beat the Phoenix Coyotes two weeks ago.

Now, he may get a chance to do it again in his return to Arizona.

It's unclear if Bryzgalov will start on back-to-back nights for the first time this season Saturday when the Flyers attempt to sweep the season series from the Coyotes.

Bryzgalov made 30 saves as Philadelphia (14-7-3) won 2-1 over Phoenix (13-8-3) in his first meeting with his former team Nov. 17.

His departure from the desert came as he was headed toward free agency last summer, with the Coyotes' murky ownership situation preventing them from meeting his salary expectations.

Bryzgalov's rights were sent to the Flyers in exchange for forward Matt Clackson, a third-round pick and future considerations, and Philadelphia inked him to a nine-year, $51 million contract.

So far, he's 9-5-2 with a 2.89 goals-against average and one shutout, going 5-1-1 with a 2.42 GAA in eight road games. He spent three-plus seasons with the Coyotes, and holds the team record for victories (130) while tying Nikolai Khabibulin's franchise-high 21 shutouts.

It's uncertain if this will be his official return to Arena after he made 19 saves as Philadelphia overcame a three-goal deficit to win 4-3 in overtime at Anaheim on Friday.

Sergei Bobrovsky has started at least once in each of the Flyers' four previous back-to-back situations this season.

"We played him once already. It's been there, done that," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said of Bryzgalov. "I'm sure anytime a player leaves for free agency and comes back, there's lots of hoopla about it. I am not sure how (the fans) will treat him. We'll see."

Tippett will likely turn to Mike Smith, who continues to prove he's an excellent and economical replacement for Bryzgalov.

Smith, who signed a reported two-year, $4 million deal to join Phoenix from Tampa Bay in July, is among the league leaders with a 2.08 GAA while going 12-5-3 with two shutouts.

He lost his fourth straight start against the Flyers despite making 40 stops opposite Bryzgalov last month, but he enters this meeting with a 1.84 GAA while winning four of six overall.

Smith's 30 saves weren't enough Thursday, as the Coyotes fell 1-0 at Winnipeg in the team's first visit since relocating from there in 1996.

"That's a frustrating game for me because that was a winnable game that we didn't win. Those are tough to take," Tippett said.

Radim Vrbata leads Phoenix with 12 goals. The right wing had six goals and two assists in his previous six games before the Coyotes were blanked for the fourth time this season Thursday, tying Dallas for the most in the Western Conference.

His Czech countryman Jaromir Jagr will try to make an impact again for the Flyers after sparking the comeback that led to Claude Giroux's power-play winner with 1:31 left in overtime Friday.

Jagr scored two goals and set up the game-tying tally by Scott Hartnell after sitting out four of five games, including the last two, with a lower-body injury.

"Even when we were down 2-0, 3-0, we felt like we didn't play that bad," Jagr said. "The score was bad, but I don't think we played that bad. We had some shifts where we cycled the puck really well, and it was just a matter of time as to when the puck would go in."

Jagr played only 1:22 against the Coyotes last month before leaving with the injury. He's making his first appearance in Phoenix since getting four points in a win with the New York Rangers on Oct. 28, 2006.

What to Read Next