PHILADELPHIA -- A bleary-eyed Ian Laperriere, with 70 stitches above his right eye, spoke of the meaning of sacrifice last Thursday after being struck by a puck against the New Jersey Devils.
That play will force Laperriere to sacrifice the rest of the playoffs after he was diagnosed with a brain contusion Tuesday.
"Playoffs are all about sacrifice," Laperriere said. "You need to block shots, need to do what it takes and we'll have to sacrifice our bodies even more in the next series."
Laperriere suffered a non-displaced fracture of the orbital bone after taking a Paul Martin slap shot to the face in the third period of the clinching fifth game against New Jersey. Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said the contusion diagnosis would leave Laperriere out indefinitely.
"They say I have a bruise in my brain and they don't want any bleeding in there," Laperriere said. "We're hockey players. We take pride in playing with injuries, but that's one thing I just can't afford to do for the sake of my family. Trust me, I want to be out there. It's the type of play I've done 10,000 times in my career and I'm going to do it again. It's a matter of bad timing, I guess. I'm disappointed about that but I'm going to be a cheerleader and do whatever it takes. If my teammates need anything I'll be right behind them, cheering them on to the Stanley Cup Final."
Holmgren and Laperriere received the news from Dr. Joseph Maroon, the chief neurosurgeon and Vice Chairman and Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Laperriere is doubtful he'll return to the ice at some point during these playoffs.
"You never know, but it'll take a little miracle," he said. "It's something I certainly won't mess with. Hockey is my passion, but my kids are my life and I have to think about that. Who knows if we go to the Finals, but the way the doctors were talking to me, there's not too much chance that'll it'll heal that quick."
With prescribed rest, doctors told Laperriere the spot on the front of his brain eventually will disappear, at which time he might be able to resume light skating. Until then, he'll do whatever the organization needs him to do.
"If Lavi (coach Peter Laviolette), the coaching staff or the players want me, I'll be around," he said. "I'll be there game nights and I'll be bored out of my mind, but I'll do whatever to support the team. I know one thing -- I won't be there in the locker room next to them. I don't think it's my place, but I'll stop by and cheer them on."
Laperriere, recipient of the Yanick Dupre Class Guy Memorial Award and the Gene Hart Memorial Award as the Flyers player who demonstrated the most heart during the season, will be missed on the ice, but he expects his teammates to follow his inspirational lead and fight to finish no matter the opponent.
He was encouraged by the play of the team in the opening round and feels the best is yet to come.
"The way we played that first series, the sky's the limit," he said. "The way the guys are playing and Prongs (Chris Pronger) and all those leaders. I wouldn't be dreaming to think this team could win the Cup. Just the way we played the first round, the way I watched them practice (Tuesday), the way guys are excited and the way they have their legs under them.
"It's hard for me to watch them do that because I wish I was out there, but it's encouraging for me because I can see them doing real well in the next couple of weeks."
Laperriere never has scored more than the 21 goals he scored for the Colorado Avalanche in 2005-06, and has accrued fewer than 100 penalty minutes just once (in 2003-04 with the Los Angeles Kings). But it's his propensity to sacrifice his body by blocking shots and his desire on the penalty kill that have made him one of the League's most admired performers.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette had several call-ups at Tuesday's practice at the Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J. Holmgren said he expects one to hopefully fill the huge void Laperriere leaves.
"We tried some different guys in practice (Tuesday) but it's hard to replace Ian, particularly on the penalty kill," Holmgren said. "He's a heart-and-soul guy on our hockey team, and it's hard to replace that. I would think that guys like (Darroll) Powe, Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell will get more involved now and some of the guys who killed penalties in the minors like (Jonathon) Kalinski and (Andreas) Nodl are certainly guys we could use."
Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org