-- Big news for the Flyers Monday. Ian Laperriere
has been cleared for contact and top scorer Jeff Carter
is back on the ice.
Carter didn't skate with the team at the Flyers' practice facility; rather, on his own for approximately 15 minutes prior to Philadelphia taking the ice to prepare for Game 2 Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS) of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Montreal Canadiens
Carter hasn't played since April 20, when he broke his right foot during Game 4 of the Flyers' first-round series with the New Jersey Devils
Laperriere, sidelined since April 23 with a brain contusion after taking a puck to the face in Game 5 against the New Jersey Devils
, was cleared for contact Monday. Laperriere skated with the team in a regular orange jersey for the first time since suffering his injury.
Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren
confirmed that an MRI performed on Laperriere Monday determined he was clear to resume activity with his teammates.
"Ian was actually cleared for contact (Monday), but it's a situation where he is still working things out," Holmgren said. "I'd say that Ian is probably closer to playing in this series at some point than Jeff."
In any event, the sight of the two regular back on the ice was a boost to the team.
"You see Jeff Carter
out on the ice, you see Ian Laperriere
on the ice, for me, that's great to see," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette
said. "I mean those are a couple of big pieces on our unit. It's positive. It's positive for the team to see them out there, for the coaches, for the fans. They're a big part of it, and we're happy to get them back on the ice."
It surprised many of the Flyers' players to see Carter skating around the ice, just one day after he was seen on crutches at the Wachovia Center and 26 days after his right foot was encased in a boot. Carter had surgery April 23, and the prognosis, at that time, was a six-week recovery.
"Surprising and great news for us," Flyers forward Simon Gagne
said. "I don't think anyone was expecting 'Cartsy' to skate that early when they were talking about six weeks. So we were kind of looking at maybe if we go to Stanley Cup Final, but not in the third round. Seeing him today, able to skate by himself, is definitely great news and I'm very happy for him."
Holmgren said Sunday "it would be a stretch" to see Carter play at any stage of this third-round series against the Canadiens.
"I think it'll depend on how Jeff is feeling," Gagne said Monday. "He did skate by himself. That's one step and we'll see when he starts practicing with the team. I know how badly he's trying to come back and play for us, but it's a process and you never know. For us, though, we have to focus on what we have right now and we'll have to worry about that."
Gagne, who had two screws surgically implanted into the big toe on his right foot April 23 and returned for Game 4 of the conference semifinal series against the Bruins, was asked if his return a week ahead of schedule inspired Carter.
"Who knows? That's playoff hockey," Gagne said. "You see something that might inspire other people, not only in my case but like Lappy (Laperriere), with sacrificing your body. Maybe Cartsy's going to be beat me -- right now he's on pace. He was supposed to get back in 6-8 weeks and he's skating after three weeks. He's in better shape than I was."
Carter led the Flyers with 33 goals during the regular season and scored his first two playoff goals in Game 4 against New Jersey before suffering his injury when he was hit by a shot by teammate Chris Pronger
at the 9:28 mark of the third period. Carter actually scored on the rebound.
"I didn't know how he was coming along but it was good enough to get in a boot and get out there and skate and it's been a while since he's been out there," Scott Hartnell
said. "I wish him the best to get back soon."
"They wouldn't let him on the ice if there was still an issue," Holmgren said. "I do think he had an orthopedic thing on the bottom of his foot to support the area that was broken, but his conditioning and the atrophy in his muscles are also an issue now. Not only in his lower leg, but his thigh because he really couldn't do anything, so we have to work through that."