Flyers keep faith in ’keeper

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:24 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA — Hours after Michael Leighton was given a vote of confidence, restless Flyers fans were demanding a recount.

Such is the life of a goaltender in Philly, especially when the time between titles is measured in decades.

So after general manager Paul Holmgren let the trade deadline pass without shoring up in net, less than five hours later Leighton got the hook in his worst outing as a Flyer as the Florida Panthers put four behind him.

“The day unfolded (without a trade) and that night I got spanked, pulled out of the game,” Leighton said Saturday as he prepared to face the Maple Leafs tonight. “I had breakfast the next day with (coach) Peter Laviolette and he told me that the team had lots of confidence in me and I should have confidence in myself.

“It was just one bad game and I had to put it behind me.”

With a .922 save percentage and 2.36 goals against average plus a 13-4-2 record with the Flyers, at least there’s reason to believe in Leighton as spring approaches.

Three months ago, that wasn’t the case.

Released by then Eastern Conference worst Carolina, where he had a terrible 4.29 GAA, there were no takers around the league.

In Philly, Ray Emery had been up-and-down, but when Emery was lost for the season, Leighton got his opportunity.

“For three weeks, I was trying to figure out what I was going to do,” said Leighton, who once made headlines for a 98-save performance in a five-OT AHL playoff game. “I have a wife and three kids ... we were thinking of the minors and maybe Europe next year.

“But the Flyers picked me up and let me play. NHL-wise, it’s the first time in probably six or seven years that I’ve got a chance to play a lot of games in a row. I look at myself back then and I’m almost disgusted at watching my game.

“I’m a lot more in control now, a lot more calm.”


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