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Bryzgalov at ease in first skate back with Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Cosmonaut Ilya Bryzgalov was on the ice Tuesday as more Flyers began trickling into Skate Zone.

Training camp tentatively opens Saturday.

Comrade Bryz was remarkably cool, calm and collected. If attitude is going to mean anything in this shortened NHL season, Ilya Bryzgalov seems very much at ease with himself and finally, his surroundings.

Which is good because with the compliance buyout effective after this season, you can make a strong case this is a 48-game audition for Bryzgalov after a last years uneven first season as the Flyers starter in net.

Bryzgalov has eight years including this season left on his 51 million contract.

All I have to worry about is work hard, Bryzgalov said when asked what impact a buyout might have hanging over him. Give my team chance to win. The rest of the stuff is out of my control. I dont have to worry about it.

I had a great experience the last year. I understand the philosophy of how it works here, the fans, media, even the management of the team. I make some notes in my head for myself. And Im going to follow them.

That sounds like a goalie who has made a critical mental adjustment to playing in Philadelphia as opposed to Phoenix.

Before the lockout began, coach Peter Laviolette felt it was essential for Bryzgalov to be playing and not sitting at home.

Despite a shaky start with the KHLs CSKA Moscow understandably, he was lacking conditioning Bryz turned in a very respectable 12 games with a 2.13 goals-against average and .913 save percentage.

The Flyers hope he can build on that. Coach Peter Laviolette could have 17 players or more who played somewhere during the lockout.

Speaking of his KHL experience, Bryzgalov said it allowed him to get in shape physically, because he was skating and playing with the full team, with a purpose.

Most of the Flyers played somewhere during the lockout which could give them an edge going into the season.

I think that is better than having 17 players not playing, Bryzgalov said. Im telling you for sure, if you dont have games, and not like having full practice with coach and team, you are in a disadvantage.

During September, he was skating here with other Flyers and it didnt help him get into shape. That was apparent when he got to Russia.

I find myself far behind everybody on the team who was in shape, he recalled. I need to do lots of workouts. I was in the different speed, a different mode. Game shape is much faster and much quicker I think. I needed some time to pick it up. I think it was great for us that most of our guys were playing somewhere.

Bryzgalov has been back for five days and is still have trouble adjusting to the time difference. His 8-year-old daughter, Valerie, woke him up at 6 a.m. on Sunday to tell him the lockout had ended.

Initially, he didnt believe it because he had heard that repeated throughout December.

I heard so many times over in Russia it was over, and I wasnt emotional at that time when she told me, Bryzgalov said. You are afraid to believe this might be finally done. We already skating at the team facility and wearing the jersey. Its great.

Bryz hasnt lost his sense of humor, either. He had a succinct observation on Scott Hartnells rather bushy beard.

He looked great as usual, the goalie said. Hes like from the movie Castaway. We need some bodies. He is going to bring his best buddy, Wilson.

Wilson, youll recall, was the volleyball that Tom Hanks talked to while stranded on the island. It saved his sanity.

Bryzgalov will get a lot of work over the 48 games maybe 38 to 40

He seems at his best when he is in that net and going back in there consistently, Laviolette said, meaning playing continually.

I would love to play a lot, Bryzgalov replied. When I play in Phoenix, I play in almost 70 games. And I feel great.

In mid-December, Bryzgalov was invited to tour the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center. Bryz donned a space suit and climbed into a capsule. He also met one of his childhood idols, cosmonaut Valery Tokarev.

A video was posted on YouTube.

That was something, Bryzgalov said. There is only one facility left in the world where they prepare the cosmonautsastronauts going into space.

The next week after I left there were three cosmonauts there, one from Canada, one from Russia, one from U.S. Its something. When I talked to an astronaut in open space, he told me some things

Bryz struggled getting his space suit off.

This suit is made already small for the people, he said. When they launched the rocket, they were kind of in the embryonic fetal position. Thats why the suit has to be small. In the embryonic position, they felt comfortable.

Its small, you cant get yourself straight. This suit already was small. It was small for me. I said, why dont you get me the knife it was like difficult to get out of it.

Which is why hell stick to wearing goalie equipment.

E-mail Tim Panaccio at tpanotch@comcast.net