Ilya Bryzgalov Gets Lit Up in AHL Debut, Gives Up Five Goals, Hat Trick in Rocky Start to NHL Comeback

ilya-bryzThat GAA is humongous — actually, this is starting to get a little sad.

Ilya Bryzgalov made his return to professional hockey on Friday, stepping between the pipes for the Oklahoma City Barons, which is the minor league affiliate to the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers signed the 33-year-old Russian netminder as low-risk, high-reward type player who could possibly serve as a late-season insurance policy for their mediocre goaltending tandem of Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera (combined save percentage .871).  But after Bryzgalov’s shaky debut against the Abbotsford Heat, where he gave up five goals and a hat trick to occasional NHLer Ben Street, the Oilers may want to rethink that plan.

Bryzgalov hadn’t seen real game action since April 25, 2013, when he posted a .955 save percentage on the New York Islanders for a 2-1 victory. Bryzgalov only saw 24 shots Friday night and saw almost a fifth of those sail past him, good for a dismal .791 mark.

It may not be all Bryz’s fault, though. This was Bryzgalov’s first look at professional talent in about six months.  The Abbotsford Heat, while still an AHL team packed with ex-NCAA players and former Boston Bruin Steve Begin, are on a nine-game winning streak, too. The Oklahoma City Barons, on the other hand, are 6-7 on the season and sit in 10th place in their conference — that may speak to the quality of defense Bryzgalov had in front of him. Jonathan Willis of the Edmonton Journal agrees, saying, “only one of the five goals against could really be faulted to Bryzgalov.”

The OKC Barons carry five goalies on their roster, so it’s unclear when Bryzgalov will get his next start. Regardless of the quality of the team around him, though, if a goalie, who just last year was playing for an NHL club, can’t do better than five goals against AHL squads, he won’t have many opportunities in the future.

Photo via Twitter/@TheAHL

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