DENVER – Cal Pickard is excited to be back in the NHL.
The 26-year-old joined the Flyers as their No. 2 goaltender, replacing Anthony Stolarz. He was Brian Elliott's backup Saturday night in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche, Pickard's onetime team.
"It's a good opportunity for me to come in here and play some games, and I have to take advantage of that," said Pickard, who is expected to make his Flyers debut Wednesday in Ottawa.
Stolarz cleared waivers Saturday and was sent to the AHL's Phantoms, where he will likely back up Carter Hart. He did not arrive in time for Saturday's game in Allentown, which was Hart's pro debut.
Pickard, claimed on waivers Tuesday from Toronto, played for three seasons in Colorado and was with the Maple Leafs when he was recalled from the minors and played his only NHL game last season – in Colorado. And now he was back in Denver with his new team.
A second-round draft selection by Colorado in 2010, Pickard is familiar with many people in the Flyers organization because he played with Team Canada during the 2017 World Championships. That team included Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, and Travis Konecny, and Flyers coach Dave Hakstol was an assistant and Philadelphia GM Ron Hextall was the general manager.
"They're a good group of guys and they made me feel real comfortable," Pickard said after participating in their morning skate Saturday, his first day with the Flyers, at the Pepsi Center.
"He's going to bring a real competitive spirit, an upbeat spirit," Hakstol said. "In terms of goaltending, he's built a good career."
Pickard had a 2.78 GAA and .913 save percentages in parts of four seasons with Colorado and Toronto. He helped the Toronto Marlies win the AHL title last season, and compiled a 2.31 GAA and .918 save percentage in the regular season.
"He's a proven NHL goalie," said Hextall, who called Pickard a "battler" like Elliott.
Pickard said it was difficult leaving the Toronto organization, "but this is a better opportunity and I'm excited about it."
The Flyers have an overload of goalies. Michal Neuvirth and Alex Lyon are close to returning from injuries. When they do, there's a chance the Flyers (Elliott, Pickard, Neuvirth) and Phantoms (Hart, Stolarz, Lyon) will each carry three goalies.
"I don't know how it's all going to shake out, but I'd rather have too many than not enough," Hextall said.
Hart, making his pro debut, stopped 31 of 34 shots Saturday as the Phantoms defeated visiting Bridgeport, 6-3.
Hart allowed goals on both ends of a late five-on-three power play for Bridgeport, but had a relatively strong outing.
Defenseman Christian Folin, signed as a free agent in the offseason, made his Flyers debut Saturday as he replaced Radko Gudas in the lineup.
Hakstol said that all seven players on his defense "are part of the mix" and that Folin "had a real good training camp" and earned playing time.
The fourth-year coach said he planned to use all seven defensemen before the two-game trip started.
Hakstol said that Gudas had a solid game in the Flyers' 5-2 win Thursday in Vegas, but that Colorado brought "a lot of team speed" into Saturday's matchup.