- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 1, 2012

PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky didn’t want to address it. Coach Peter Laviolette is traditionally tight-lipped about publicizing his starting goalie choice, and the Winter Classic was no different.

“Sticking with company policy that we’ve had since I’ve been here,” he said. “Same policy; new year, same policy.”

But veteran Ilya Bryzgalov wasn’t sticking with that policy, announcing Sunday morning that he would not be starting Monday’s game against the New York Rangers at Citizens Bank Park.

“I have great news and even better news,” Bryzgalov said. “Great news: I’m not playing tomorrow night, and good news: We have a chance to win the game tomorrow.”

A clearly disappointed Bryzgalov has allowed four or more goals in three of his past four starts, while the 23-year-old Bobrovsky is coming off a stellar 24-save outing against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“Bob had a really strong game in Pittsburgh. The thing is, we want to win this game,” Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn said. “I think either goalie gives us a really good chance to win, but obviously Bob had a great game in Pittsburgh and that’s what we want to accomplish is this win tomorrow.”

On performance alone, the decision seemed a no-brainer. But Bryzgalov was given the unquestioned franchise goalie tag in the offseason thanks to a nine-year, $51 million contract. The Winter Classic has a Super Bowl feel to it, but the value of this game to the standings supersedes spectacle.

“At the end of the day, it’s an event but there’s two points on the line,” general manager Paul Holmgren said. “Sergei’s played well.”

Laviolette has been consistent in rewarding players for strong performances with extra playing time. Around the locker room, as guys shook off the decision as not their business, they likewise agreed with the philosophy that playing well should be worth something.

“I think as a coach I would do the same thing. You reward the players who plays well, works hard,” defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the Winter Classic or whatever. It doesn’t matter. You get some playing time, and it’s fair for everybody.”

Bobrovsky is 8-2-1 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .914 save percentage this season. And though the young goalie is still adjusting to appearing in fewer games, his mindset has not changed.

“It doesn’t matter who starts tomorrow because the most important thing is the result,” Bobrovsky said through an interpreter. “It’s a real game, it’s two points on the line. It would have been special, but the result is the most important thing. “At this point, every game is the most important game in my career.”

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