Before Ilya Bryzgalov joins the Edmonton Oilers, the team wanted him to get some reps with their AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City. The Russian netminder, who signed a one-year, $2.26 million deal last week, made his debut with the OKC Barons Friday night and it didn't go particularly well.
Playing in his first live game since April 25, Bryzgalov allowed five goals on 24 shots in a losing effort against the Calgary Flames' AHL affiliate, the Abbotsford Heat.
After the Oilers' new acquisition gave up a goal just 4:02 into the game, Oklahoma City went on a 3-0 run. However, Abbotsford stormed back with a pair of goals just 59 seconds apart in the second period to knot things up. The Barons then scored again to take a 4-3 lead into the third period. Abbotsford's Ben Street scored twice in the third period, however, to push his squad to a 5-4 victory.
Even though it's the minor leagues, the AHL is a pretty strong professional circuit. So Bryzgalov deserves some of the benefit of the doubt in coming off a long layover, a rather tumultuous offseason and going against guys who have been playing for more than a month.
Still, this does very little to calm nerves that Bryzgalov won't offer much of an upgrade, if any over Devan Dubnyk in Edmonton. With just a one-year deal at a fairly reasonable price, there's a low-risk commitment from the Oilers, but to make room, they did have to part with Ladislav Smid, depleting an already porous defense.
Bryzgalov likely needs a little more time to get back into the groove, but this probably wasn't the way he wanted to introduce himself to his new organization.