Goalies, black eyes and rallying cries

June, 8, 2010

PHILADELPHIA -- Coach Peter Laviolette didn't come out and outright announce that Michael Leighton will start Game 6 for the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night, but he hinted mighty strongly at it.

But only after a little media prodding Tuesday.

Reporter: "Have you told your goaltender who is going to start?"

Laviolette: "No, I haven't."

Reporter: "When will you do that?"

Laviolette: [Long pause] "Do you know who is starting in the net for Chicago? Did they announce that yet?"

Reporter: "We assume Antti Niemi."

Laviolette: "Oh, but nobody asked?"

This is when we wish we had said, "No, Peter. No one asked because Niemi isn't the one who has been pulled twice in the Cup finals."

Finally, Laviolette all but named Leighton his starter. "Our goaltender has the best numbers in the playoffs," said the Flyers coach. "I didn't think I had to announce it."

But just so we're clear, he didn't make it official. Leighton is 6-0 at Wachovia Center in these playoffs and has given up only nine goals over that span. He was the obvious choice despite his struggles in Chicago.

"I'm very confident in Michael," Laviolette said. "He's played excellent in the playoffs. His home numbers are terrific. Yeah, I'm very confident in Michael."

Leighton has put Game 5 behind him.

"I take it as a challenge. You're obviously not happy with what happened," he said Tuesday. "You got pulled, you didn't play as well as you thought you would. You want to prove them wrong and jump back in and play well."

A black eye

We kidded with Flyers center Daniel Briere on Tuesday that he can forget those male modeling contracts for the summer. But the ugly shiner underneath his right eye, courtesy of a Duncan Keith high stick that wasn't called in Game 5, made a more serious impression on his kids.

"Yeah, there's one of them that was scared," Briere said. "They didn't see me until late yesterday afternoon after school. They didn't know too much what to expect. But it's all good now. They're old enough now to understand that it's playoff hockey and it's the way it is."

If the Flyers win the Cup, Chris Pronger will likely win the Conn Smythe Trophy, but we believe Briere also deserves some strong consideration.

Speech, coach?

Laviolette might pump his guys up before Wednesday's Game 6. That's what a coach does. Can he use Pittsburgh's Cup win last year as motivation when the Penguins erased a 3-2 series deficit against Detroit?

"I do look for those type of things," said Laviolette. "I think part of your role as coach is trying to motivate and get your team to believe in things, and there's no question we talked about that situation. I mentioned the Carolina situation in the past. We've talked about what our team has been through. You talk about winning championships. You see them happen year after year.

"But our championship that we're pursuing is special, maybe more so than others if you look at how we had to get here and what we had to do to get our hands on that thing."

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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