Coming off their worst performance of the playoffs, the Flyers received some very, very good news.
That's right, Ian Laperriere will be back in action for the first time since game 5 of the Devils series, when he (and I) thought his eye fell out. The man has some big, brass ones, I tell you. A month to the day that he suffered a brain contusion, broken orbital bone and concussion, Laperriere will be back in the lineup for game 4 in Montreal, wearing a full shield. He'll undoubtedly take Andreas Nodl's place on the fourth line along with Darroll Powe and Blair Betts.
Nodl performed admirably in Laperriere's absence, playing aggressive, confident hockey. But Laperriere's return cannot be overstated. He, along with Betts, has been the best penalty-killing forward for the Flyers all season, and he is as fearless and as awesome as it gets when it comes blocking shots. Even with the shield, I don't expect that to change. Add in his toughness along the boards and veteran playoff experience, and this is certainly a good thing. It may be just what the doctor ordered to help ignite the Flyers, hopefully in the first period, tomorrow.
In more great news, Jeff Carter also skated today at practice and according to Sam Carchidi "looked to be regaining his form." Carter is doubtful for tomorrow's game, but he hasn't been completely ruled out quite yet either. The question is, with Laperriere already coming back and Carter on the way some time sooner rather than later (seemingly), who do you take out of the lineup? Surely the Flyers can't afford to mess with the great chemistry Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell and former healthy-scratch regular Ville Leino have developed. And with the way Leino's played, he can't be taken out of the lineup. So who does that leave? Darroll Powe maybe? I don't think I'd want to see Powe taken out of the lineup, not with the energy and speed he brings. He's been hitting everything that moves this postseason, epitomizing Peter Laviolette's aggressive forecheck style. He's tailor-made for this system. Plus, he's played really well defensively and on the penalty kill.
So who else is left? Dan Carcillo maybe? It's tough to imagine Carcillo not being in the lineup. He's done an outstanding job remaining relatively disciplined, drawn a lot of penalties on the opposition, and even scored a pretty big goal.
Arron Asham, maybe? I could see that. Or JVR? Perhaps, but those two have played really well in the playoffs alongside Claude Giroux, especially of late, even if the score sheet isn't conveying it all the time.
Certainly Gagne, Richards, Briere, Giroux and Betts aren't going anywhere. Scott Hartnell has really stepped up his game of late, so it would be hard to envision him getting healthy scratched — and shit, after surviving what can only be described as a horrendous regular season without being a healthy scratch, you wouldn't expect it in the playoffs. Nor should Leino be asked to sit. And really, with Carcillo on the top line and being disciplined and Powe playing well, it's tough to take anyone out. Maybe only dress five defensemen? That's a possibility, seeing as Ryan Parent and Lukas Krajicek haven't exactly gotten a ton of ice time or played well enough to merit more time. But dressing just five defensemen is a dicey proposition.
I don't know who would become the healthy scratch, but someone would have to go to make room for Carter. You certainly aren't going to not put Jeff Carter — leading goal-scorer in the regular season, penalty-killer and power-play contributor, and most consistent player all season — in the lineup if he's ready.
The good news is the Flyers don't have to rush him back with the forwards playing so well. They might as well take their time and make sure he's 100 percent and in good game shape before inserting him into the lineup. Either way, it's a nice problem to have — so many guys playing well that you don't know who to sit, last night's game excluded.
Welcome back, Ian. And get well soon, Jeff. We're gonna need you guys for six more victories.
LET'S GO FLYERS!!!!!