Montreal, Quebec – It was a rough time in his career for Eric Desjardins at the end of the season in 2004.
The 6'0'', 203-pound defenseman, who was in his ninth year with the club, missed most of the second half of the regular season with a broken right forearm. He returned in time for the final three regular season games and looked like he would be ready to help the team in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
It was not to be, however, as the plate meant to repair his forearm broke, forcing him to watch the exciting run that brought the Flyers to within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals from the press box.
"I was actually lucky it broke not playing or practicing," said Desjardins about re-injuring the forearm. "I was just doing day-to-day stuff. I hate to go back to it, but the second time they went back in they did everything they could to make sure it was going to heal. It was scary. It was pretty bad, and at one point you ask yourself, 'is it going to heal?'"
Healed it has, and Desjardins has taken back his place as a steady defenseman who can be relied upon in any situation on the ice.
"I think he's one of those players that looks like he benefited from the time off. He's in tremendous shape, and looks like he's having fun playing hockey right now," said Ken Hitchcock. "Physically, he feels great. He's 36 years old, and looks like he can play for a few years the way he's playing right now. He's really playing with a lot of poise, and a lot of character."
"You appreciate it a lot more when you're out of the game," said Desjardins, of not playing during the lockout. "For me, at first it was just good to come back to prove to myself that I could come back to this league and play. I know it's still early, but I feel good. That's the only thing I really want, is to be a part of this team."
After posting a goal and an assist in over 21 minutes of ice time on Saturday in Toronto, Desjardins is now third on the team in scoring with seven points (1g, 6a) behind only the virtually unstoppable duo of Peter Forsberg (12a) and Simon Gagne (7g, 4a). He spent the most time of any defenseman on the power play, with 8:05 on the ice with the man advantage.
"I'm trying to stay in the game as long as I can but also to contribute whatever I can and wherever they put me," said Desjardins. "In whatever situation they put me in, I try to make the most of it. It's just the way I've always played, to be effective on the power play, penalty kill and everything else."
Desjardins, a quiet yet respected presence in the locker room, has also impressed his teammates with his play. Chris Therien, his long time partner on the blue line, is one of them.
"The thing I noticed the most is that he's really skating well, and he's shooting the puck great," said Therien. "It's good playing with him right now, because we are able to read off of each other. That's something you never lose. We played together for eight years, and that's a long time. I'm happy for 'Rico,' he's playing great hockey."
FLYERS NOTES Hitchcock said that Robert Esche would start in net when the Flyers play against the Canadiens on Tuesday. … Flyers 2005 first round draft choice Steve Downie has been practicing with the team since Saturday morning in Toronto.