Thursday, December 30, 2010

Leighton to make long-awaited season-debut in Los Angeles; Timonen to gut it out

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton will make his season debut on Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings.

Head coach Peter Laviolette confirmed earlier in the day that Leighton will be playing for the first time since the heartbreaking loss in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals against Chicago on June 9.

During the preseason, Leighton began to experience discomfort in his lower back and numbness radiating down one leg, and saw limited action before being rested, then diagnosed with a herniated disc. The 29-year-old underwent back surgery in October that had kept him off the ice for almost two months.

Leighton has spent the balance of December with the Adirondack Phantoms of the American Hockey League, and has played to mixed results, given the fact that the former Philadelphia denizens sport the worst record in the AHL amidst roster and coaching upheavals.

He was 1-3-0 with a 2.78 goals-against average in four games, allowing 11 goals while stopping 106 shots.

Last season, Leighton went 16-5-2 with a shutout and a 2.48 GAA over 27 games after being acquired by the Flyers off waivers from the Carolina Hurricanes. He went on to guide the team to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1997 and posted an 8-3 mark with a 2.46 GAA in the playoffs.

The Flyers, who are trying to reverse the effects of a two-game losing skid in LA, got some more good news when defenseman Kimmo Timonen pronounced himself ready to play despite suffering some sort of hip injury during Tuesday's 6-2 loss in Vancouver.

Philly plays back-to-back in Southern California tonight and tomorrow in Anaheim, before returning to the Eastern Time Zone with games at Detroit and New Jersey next week to close out a five-game trip.

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