Flyers recall Brendl for regular season finale

By Al Alven

The Philadelphia Flyers announced on Saturday night that they have recalled right wing Pavel Brendl from the American Hockey League’s Philadelphia Phantoms. The move was made immediately following the Phantoms’ 5-3 loss at Syracuse in Game 1 of the Calder Cup quarterfinals.

Through three AHL playoff games, Brendl leads the Phantoms (and the league) with four goals and one assist for five points. He will likely play today in the Flyers’ regular season finale at Long Island, then be returned to the Phantoms for Game 2 at Syracuse on Wednesday.

Brendl’s three-game playoff outburst has been a pleasant surprise for the Flyers organization. After a lackluster regular season, the pressure was on the 21-year-old prospect to perform in the playoffs. To this point, he has been the Phantoms’ best player in the postseason.

Most did not expect to see Brendl back in the NHL this season. The wildcard in last summer’s Eric Lindros trade with the New York Rangers, Brendl surprised the Flyers with a terrific training camp. He made Philadelphia’s opening night roster after leading the team in scoring during the exhibition season (nine points in six games), but was ineffective in seven games. His only point came in the form of a fluke goal at Washington (Oct. 20), when Capitals goaltender Olaf Kolzig misplayed a dump-in from center ice.

After his demotion to the Phantoms in November, Brendl was largely inconsistent. Though he showed flashes of potential, his numbers were rather disappointing. The Olomovac, Czech Republic native tallied only 37 points (15 goals, 22 assists) in 64 games. His play in the postseason to this point, however, has been very encouraging.

Two main factors conspired in the Flyers’ decision to recall Brendl. First, today’s game against the Islanders was rendered meaningless (at least in terms of playoff implications) after the Flyers’ 2-1 Atlantic Division-clinching victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday. Secondly, with the Phantoms off until Wednesday (a four-day break between games), the team can afford to recall Brendl and return him to the AHL before he misses a game.

Another possible factor in Brendl’s recall is the health status of Flyers forward Simon Gagne (virus). If Gagne is scratched today, Brendl will most definitely take his place on the Jeremy Roenick/Justin Williams line. Depending on game conditions, he may see time on other lines as well.

At this point, Brendl’s call-up seems like a one-shot deal. Surely, the Flyers would like to give their top prospect as much NHL experience as possible. At the same time, however, he is gaining valuable experience as a key member of an AHL playoff team. Unless the Phantoms are quickly eliminated from the playoffs and/or the Flyers run into major injury problems during their first round playoff series with the Ottawa Senators, don’t expect to see Brendl back with the Flyers this season.

Consider Brendl’s recall a statement to the young prospect that the organization is willing to reward hard work with NHL ice time. Only time will tell how well how well Brendl receives that message.