Sunday, July 1, 2012

Leighton back with Flyers amid free agency follies


It is a scene Michael Leighton isn't going to soon forget.
Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, the Flyers hanging on against the skilled Chicago Blackhawks at home, in an overtime with elimination awaiting.
Then before most people in the Wells Fargo Center noticed, the Hawks' Patrick Kane slung a shot from the corner at an almost 90-degree angle ... and it went through Leighton and into the net to win the championship for Chicago.
"Obviously I think about it," Leighton said Sunday. "When you're that close to a Stanley Cup and you lose that way, it's tough. I'm sure it's going to be on my mind the rest of my life."
But Leighton would go on to say he also is a better goalie because of that Stanley Cup setback, and it has helped him return to the point where he is now ... right back with the Flyers as their new backup goaltender.
Leighton, who has spent most of the past two years regaining his health and his game with the Adirondack Phantoms of the American Hockey League, was re-signed Sunday by the Flyers to a one-year, one-way contract worth $900,000. It means he will back up Ilya Bryzgalov, a guy he knows and a goalie he respects.
It also means that fate could deal Leighton another hand in the Flyers' never ending quest to win it all again.
"I'm excited," Leighton said. "The past two seasons, I think, I was put in a spot because of injuries. I understand what Homer did and why he had to do it. It was obviously tough for me. But I’m happy about coming back to the NHL. I’m excited, and for me to be a backup, I’ve done it before. I’ve just got to work hard and show the team that I’m ready to go in if they need me."
And if that time again comes in the playoffs due to an injury to Bryzgalov? If that happens, Leighton promises he'll be more than ready this time. Looking back on that unfortunate Kane goal, Leighton said, "In a way I think it’s helped me.  It’s made me change a few things about my game and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.  I’ve been working on my game the last two years.  But no, it’s not something that’s going to go away.  Maybe if I win the Stanley Cup next year it’ll go away. There’s a lot of fans that are still sour about it, and obviously I’m not happy about the way things went either, but what happened happened, and I have to move on in my life.”


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