Flyers’ Depth on Defense Tested

Twelve minutes into the third period of a 6-2 drubbing at the hands of  the Vancouver Canucks, Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen was ushered off of the bench and into the locker room.

It was originally reported to be a lower-body injury and that he was taken off for precautionary reasons. But it’s now come out that it was a hip-injury he aggravated from a hit he received in the second period.

The veteran’s injury has been kept quiet, but word has it, he’s been kept off of the ice for Wednesday’s practice and will be a game time decision for the Kings on Thursday night.

“I’ll take the morning skate tomorrow and see how it feels,” Timonen said. “I give it a 50-50 chance. It’s nothing really bad, just tight and sore. It’s one of those things I got to step on the ice tomorrow and see how it feels.”

This couldn’t come at a worse time for the Flyers. Chris Pronger, a former Hart and Norris Trophy-winner, broke a bone in his foot blocking a shot against Montreal on December 15. After surgery to implant two pins in his foot, he’s expected to be out until sometime in late January. Also, the team is on a two-game losing streak, which may not sound like much, but in those two games, they’ve allowed 11 goals and been shut out once. Both games were miserable efforts.

Timonen, 35, leaves a major hole to fill. He leads the team in ice time per game (22:21), is tied for first in blocked shots (75), and leads in assists (15) and points (17) among Flyers defensemen. He plays in all situations and he’s a leader on and off the ice.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette seems confident Timonen would be ready for at least limited play.

“Right now, I’m planning on Kimmo [being] in the lineup,” the Flyers bench boss said.

Today, however, Erik Gustafsson got the call-up from the Adirondack Phantoms, the Flyers AHL affiliate.  He’s a speedy puck-moving defenseman signed out of Northern Michigan University last season. The 22-year-old rookie has never seen an NHL regular season game.

Oddly enough, Gustafsson’s play has been compared to Timonen’s. He currently leads all AHL defensemen in assists (22) and points (26) in 33 games. He also leads all Phantoms in those categories. He’s a -24 on the struggling club, but in six preseason games with the Flyers this season, he managed a +2 rating.

“He was pretty smooth,” Laviolette said about Gustafsson. “It’s hard to get a real read. You get a better read when [they’re up] here.”

Although it would be nice for Gustafsson to see some NHL action, the team is hoping their veteran blueliner is ready to go. Either way, neither he nor the organization seemed too concerned about the timeline.

The last from Timonen was, “I’m confident if it’s not tomorrow [playing], then it will be the next day.”

After the Kings on Thursday, the Flyers are right back at it against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday. They’re in a tough stretch where nine of their next ten games are on the road, four of which are against top-tier Western Conference teams.

Also of note, the Canucks’ game marked tough guy Jody Shelley’s return to the lineup. He had been serving a two-game suspension, and after that he was a healthy scratch for two more games. During the third period, he sucker-punched former Canucks defenseman and former Flyer Andrew Alberts and received a match penalty.

For his indiscretion he’ll be serving his second two-game suspension of the season. Dan Carcillo will be replacing him in the lineup for at least the next two games.

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