By Mary Cunningham
Flyers coach Dake Hakstol has evidently seen enough.
While he wouldn’t make it official, a number of players commented yesterday on the fact that goalie Anthony Stolarz will make his NHL debut tonight against the Calgary Flames.
Stolarz is filling in for the injured Michal Neuvirth.
The Flyers have lost three of their last four games to sink below .500 again (9-10-3). While Steve Mason can’t really be blamed for much of the skid, perhaps a new face can help get the Flyers out of their rut.
“It would be exciting (to start), especially in front of the home fans,’’ Stolarz said after yesterday’s practice. “I’ve been around the past few years (26 games to be exact) and close to a lot of players. I’m just going to go out there, do my job, stop the puck.’’
The 6-6, 220-pound Stolarz says he’s not bringing a whole (South Jersey native) Johnny Gaudreau-like mob to the game. Just some family members — he has three brothers — and a few friends. He adds that being the first N.J. goalie in the NHL is somewhat of a big deal.
“Obviously with New Jersey not being such a hockey hotbed, it’s nice to see the state get some recognition,’’ he told the media. “We have a lot of rinks. Within 40 minutes of my house there are 10 rinks. It’s definitely a popular sport here … for me to be the first goalie (from N.J.) it’s exciting.’’
Mason and the rest of the Flyers believe Stolarz is ready and deserving of a chance.
“I think everyone’s excited for him,’’ said Mason, who just came off three games in less than four days. “Since I’ve been here, he’s been called up numerous times, over a quarter of a year. This year he looks like a different goaltender. He’s in his third year in pro and he’s put in a lot of work to get here.
“I told him just to have fun. It’s a big deal because you’ve worked so long to get that first start. But at the end of the day, it’s another game of hockey. He has to do the same thing he did in the American League the last three years. It’s just a matter of controlling his emotions. Keep an even keel, not get too high or get too low.’’