PHILADELPHIA — A lot has happened to Calvin Pickard since the Golden Knights made him the first player selected in the expansion draft nearly 16 months ago.
He’s been traded. Demoted to the minors. Placed on waivers.
And now, the goaltender is back in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers, who host the Knights at 10 a.m. Saturday at Wells Fargo Center.
“It’s been pretty wild, going back all the way to when I got picked up by Vegas,” Pickard said Friday following the Flyers’ practice at Voorhees Township, New Jersey. “I want to get back up to the level I know I’m capable of playing, and I’m glad I got another opportunity to show myself.”
Pickard was projected to be the backup to Marc-Andre Fleury until the Knights claimed Malcolm Subban on waivers three days before the start of their inaugural season.
Instead, Pickard was sent to Toronto on the morning of their season opener in exchange for forward Tobias Lindberg and a sixth-round pick in the 2018 draft that was used to select prep school defenseman Peter Diliberatore.
Pickard spent nearly all of last season “getting my game back” with the Maple Leafs’ affiliate in the American Hockey League, compiling a 21-9-2 record with a 2.31 goals-against average.
While the Knights advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, Pickard was part of the team that captured the Calder Cup title.
With their system stocked with goaltenders, the Maple Leafs waived Pickard before the start of this season. Philadelphia claimed him Oct. 2 to serve as Brian Elliott’s backup while Michal Neuvirth remains on injured reserve (groin).
Pickard made 31 saves in the Flyers’ 7-4 victory over Ottawa on Wednesday. It was his first NHL victory since April 4, 2017, with Colorado.
“Obviously, a little bit of rustiness, but I like the way I competed,” Pickard said. “I liked the way I could handle a full 60 (minutes) mentally, and I just kind of went after it and let everything else take care of itself.”
Pickard was a popular figure during his short stint with the Knights, stemming in large part from the contest the team held to design his mask.
Pickard recently unveiled his latest mask, which features the Flyers’ over-the-top mascot, Gritty.
“I want to be a good teammate, a good guy in the locker room and be a likeable guy, and that’s something I take pride in,” Pickard said. “It was an idea that was brought on by the painter and I said, ‘Go ahead’ and it turned out really nice.”
Bischoff sent down
The Knights reassigned defenseman Jake Bischoff to their American Hockey League affiliate in Chicago.
Bischoff, 24, was not in uniform for any of the first five games after making the team out of training camp.
Philadelphia’s Travis Konecny (foot) left practice early Friday after being hit by a shot, and Flyers general manager Ron Hextall had no update on the second-line winger following practice at Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone. … The Knights took Friday off after back-to-back losses to Washington and Pittsburgh.
1. Payback time. The Golden Knights allowed three goals in the second period and suffered a 5-2 loss to Philadelphia on opening night, which set the stage for their 1-4 start. This is the final meeting between the teams and concludes the Knights’ season-long five-game road trip.
2. Wake-up call. This is the second early start in the Eastern time zone on this road swing for the Knights. Coach Gerard Gallant said his team was “sound asleep” in the first half of its loss to Buffalo on Monday and can’t afford to hit the snooze bar again.
3. Dwindling depth. Philadelphia’s middle-six forwards did most of the damage in the opener. But James van Riemsdyk and Nolan Patrick already have been ruled out and Travis Konecny is questionable, leaving a gaping hole on the second line the Knights must exploit.