NEW YORK – After undergoing a pair of knee surgeries and missing almost the entire 2017-18 season, Anthony Stolarz has worked himself back into shape and back into the Flyers' crowded goalie picture.
Stolarz, thrust into action because Alex Lyon suffered an injury during warm-ups, stopped 31 of 32 shots Tuesday to spark the Flyers past the New York Islanders, 5-1, in a preseason game at the Barclays Center.
The Flyers improved to 2-1 this preseason heading into Wednesday's game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Stolarz, the goalie the Flyers protected in last year's expansion draft for Vegas, had been scheduled to play the last half of Tuesday game. That was before Lyon was injured.
"Knowing I was going to play the second half, I kind of went a little hard in warm-ups, so I was a little tired, but that's the way it goes sometimes and you just have to be on your toes and be ready," said Stolarz, 24, a Jackson, N.J., native.
He was sharp from the outset, making 12 first-period saves as the Flyers built a 1-0 lead.
"I felt I played pretty well," he said. "Obviously, Rome wasn't built in a day and I'm not going to be back in tip-top shape after two games. This is something I've been working toward, and anytime I get in the net I'm going to continue working hard. Overall, I think it was a step up from the last game, but I still think there's a lot of room for improvement."
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol called it a "complete game" by his entire team. "We got good efforts from pretty much everybody in the lineup," he said. "There were a few soft spots in there and our goaltender made some good saves and you've got to have that on the road."
The 6-foot-6, 210-pound Stolarz went through a grueling rehab last season.
"Any time you have to miss an entire year, it kind of takes its toll on you," said Stolarz, who actually played four games (one in the AHL, three in the ECHL) last season. "But this is what your work toward. Your work toward moments like this where you can get into the net and try to take an opportunity to run with it. For me, it's just nice to be back around the guys and be able to get back on the ice."
Stolarz' athleticism may not be what it was before his knee surgeries, but it's getting close.
"As I worked over the summer, three or four times a week, I was able to chip away at the scar tissue and get my mobility back," he said.
Stolarz found out just after warm-ups that he would have to play the full game.
"You just have to turn the 'on' switch on and get going," he said with a smile.