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Wranglers give Bryzgalov place to shine

Counting former coach Glen Gulutzan, a dozen players have suited up for the Wranglers before making their NHL debut.

Ilya Bryzgalov is taking a different path to Las Vegas. The 33-year-old Russian goaltender already has proven himself in the NHL — where he has been an All-Star, Vezina Trophy nominee and Stanley Cup champion — but he has signed a professional tryout agreement with the Wranglers in the hopes of earning another chance in the NHL.

Bryzgalov has been unemployed since June, when the Philadelphia Flyers bought out his $51 million, nine-year contract. His agreement with the Wranglers — who aren’t affiliated with an NHL team — allows him to participate in the team’s training camp, its first under new coach Mike Madill, the former team captain.

“Having missed camp this year, an experience like this is critical for me to be ready for NHL play, and I can’t wait to get on the ice,” Bryzgalov said in a statement released by the Wranglers.

“To be clear, I intend to return to the NHL, and to be ready for game action when an NHL opportunity opens up. I intend to work hard while I am here in Las Vegas, and to return the support I have received from my family, the many fans who have reached out to me with words of encouragement, and the Wranglers organization with actions, not words.”

Bryzgalov said he won’t comment further until the end of Wranglers camp, which starts today at the Fiesta Rancho Ice Arena. Las Vegas opens its 11th ECHL season on Oct. 19 against Utah at Orleans Arena.

Madill said he thinks Bryzgalov’s time in camp — however long it lasts — will be beneficial for the Wranglers. He said Bryzgalov’s representatives contacted the team Sunday, expressing the goaltender’s interest in training with Las Vegas.

“He’s one of the top goalies on the planet, so I figured this is an amazing opportunity for our guys, and mainly our goalies, to be with a guy like that and to learn,” Madill said. “It will be fun. Our guys get to shoot on him and our goalies get to learn from him.

“He’s here for training camp and we’ll go with the flow from there.”

The Wranglers return veteran goalie Mitch O’Keefe and also have signed netminder Travis Fullerton, a rookie from the University of New Brunswick.

Bryzgalov was the 44th pick in the 2000 NHL Draft, taken by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round. The 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pound goalie won the 2007 Stanley Cup with the Ducks, and also played for the Phoenix Coyotes before spending the past two seasons with the Flyers.

He’s compiled a 208-149-45 record with 30 shutouts in his nine-year NHL career with a 2.55 goals-against average and .913 save percentage. He went 52-33-10 with a 2.61 GAA for the Flyers, who failed to make the playoffs last season.

■ NOTES — The Wranglers will host a free Fan Fest from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday at Scooter’s Pub, 6200 S. Rainbow Blvd. Fans are invited to meet Madill and the players, prizes will be raffled off and there will be carnival-style games in the parking lot. … Las Vegas will host Ontario in a preseason game Oct. 13.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.

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