Esche allowed goal on only shot faced

Updated: May 3, 2004, 1:47 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Robert Esche's status for the rest of the playoffs is uncertain after he left Sunday's game against Toronto with what his coach called an "upper-body injury."

"We'll give you the truth [Monday]. We're not going to give you the truth today," Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said after a 7-2 victory. "We shall let you know what part of the upper body [Monday]."

 Robert Esche
Esche

Flyers also lost defenseman Vladimir Malakhov to an "upper-body injury."

Hitchcock's coyness was in response to Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn's reluctance to release injury information all series long. Quinn has described injuries to Joe Nieuwendyk and Mats Sundin as "lower-body injuries."

When asked when Esche was hurt, Hitchcock refused comment.

"Let's talk about the game," he said.

Esche was examined by a neurologist, not an orthopedic doctor, a Flyers spokesman told ESPN. There is speculation that Esche was suffering dizzy spells after leaving the game and that he may have a concussion, according to the Toronto Sun.

Esche faced only one shot: Nieuwendyk's goal with 35 seconds remaining in the opening period. Esche made an awkward turn as the puck crossed the goal line, but it is not certain if that is when the injury occurred.

Backup Sean Burke, acquired in a trade on Feb. 9, replaced Esche at the start of the second period and stopped eight of nine shots.

"That's about as tough as I've felt going into a game in my career, having not played in so long" Burke said. "It's been a long time since I've played and I felt it."

Burke, a 16-year veteran, is in his second stint with Philadelphia. He was the starting goalie in 1998 when the Flyers were eliminated in the opening round by Buffalo. Burke allowed 17 goals in five games against the Sabres and was not re-signed in the offseason.

In 15 appearances with the Flyers this season, Burke was 6-5-2 with a 2.55 goals-against average. He made 24 saves in his last start, a 2-0 shutout against Montreal on April 1.

"I've been able to practice hard every day and work on my conditioning," Burke said. "That's not the problem. It's just getting some game action. It was nice to get a couple of periods."

Esche's injury is his third of the season. He missed seven games in December with a groin strain and sat out 10 games late in the season with a sprained knee.

Starting for the first time in the playoffs, Esche has been outstanding, helping the Flyers beat New Jersey in the first round. Though he made no saves on Sunday, he still registered his seventh victory of the playoffs.

But now, it may be Burke in net when the Flyers attempt to close out the series in Game 6 on Tuesday night.

"If you do get in, you want to be prepared," Burke said. "I'll prepare (Monday) like I'm going to play."

Malakhov was checked into the boards by Toronto's Darcy Tucker 15:42 into the first period. He left the bench a few minutes later and headed to the locker room. None of the Flyers' training staff attended to Malakhov and, when he left, he did so under his own power.

"One (injury) we don't have a clue on," Hitchcock said. "We still need some evaluation before we can tell you what it is. The other one, we aren't even sure how to describe it."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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