COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Flyers general manager Ron Hextall announced before Tuesday's game that goaltender Brian Elliott had undergone core muscle surgery, most assumed that the 32-year veteran was done for the year. After all, it took Shayne Gostisbehere and Claude Giroux all of their summers two years ago to recover, and Nolan Patrick's struggles with two such injuries and the recovery time required only accentuated that impression.
So when Hextall gave a timeline of five to six weeks before Elliott could return to the net — well, it raised eyebrows.
"Yeah,'' Giroux said when asked if the timeline surprised him. "It's a serious injury. I mean, every person is different, though. Some people might take five weeks. Some people, it might take 10 weeks. Hopefully it's quick.''
"Just because you have the surgery doesn't make you an expert at it,'' Gostisbehere said after Friday's morning skate in Columbus. "But you do have some knowledge about it. I think what he had is a little different, I think. You could always say it's a core muscle injury. I don't know what he has. I know he's had some treatment on it before, and I think prior treatment can help.''
Giroux conceded late last season that his surgery, which also included reattaching torn muscles connected to his hip, affected his productivity last season. Gostisbehere has always resisted that connection, but his remarkable play this season provides evidence that it affected him for most of last season, as well.
But there is evidence of quick recoveries around the league. Brad Lukowich, then with Tampa Bay, was back on the ice on March 29, 2008 after core muscle surgery on Feb. 20. Clayton Stoner, then playing for the Minnesota Wild, was supposed to be back in two to four weeks after surgery in February 2010, but never played another game that year. The Wild were out of the playoff hunt, so that might have factored into it.
Likewise, Elliott will probably not man the pipes again this season if Michal Neuvirth, Alex Lyon and whoever they might obtain before the trade deadline can't help them maintain the status to which Elliott's play catapulted them.