Voorhees, NJ – Flyers defenseman Eric Desjardins has started his road to returning to the lineup, skating with about half of his teammates on Thursday morning at the Sovereign Bank Flyers Skate Zone. Desjardins has missed the last six games after getting a concussion on a hit by Chris Clark of the Washington Capitals on November 3.
At the time of the injury, Desjardins was leading all Flyers blueliners with one goal and 12 assists for 13 points and 10 penalty minutes. Thursday was his second day of physical activity since he was sidelined.
"The second day is always easier and I felt a lot better. I felt clearer and sharper," he said. "I think when you're out for a long period of time it is just getting back to getting in shape and doing the stuff that you were doing before. Sometimes you don't know if it's the concussion or it's just a lack of being in shape. But, today was good."
Flyers Head Coach Ken Hitchcock is anxious to get Desjardins back on the ice.
"This is three days in a row where Eric has felt terrific," said Hitchcock. "We're real hopeful that after working out and practicing on the ice for 40 minutes that he feels exactly the same [Friday], and then we're off and running. Then it's just a matter of the conditioning and getting ready to go. If he comes with a clear head [Friday] then we can really work him in the next few games to get him ready to play."
Despite feeling better recently, Desjardins does not want to set a possible date for return. He would rather continue at a comfortable pace and get back into game action when he feels the time is right.
"I've [set dates] in the past, but then you get to that date you're not feeling good enough and you feel like you weren't pushing yourself and you're disappointed," he said. "You feel like it's a setback. I take it more as one day at a time."
Hitchcock to Flyers: Don't Dive
A growing concern of the NHL is players who may be embellishing penalties, or, in other words, taking dives. The issue arose during Wednesday night's Flyers-Pittsburgh game, when the Penguins' Ryan Whitney went down rather easily while Joni Pitkanen had his stick softly around Whitney's waist.
Sidney Crosby also recoiled late in the second while being harassed by Derian Hatcher, but it was Crosby who was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct after he griped about a non-call. Replays showed Hatcher's stick did not strike Crosby in the face as the rookie intended to portray.
Hitchcock made his views on diving very clear while speaking to the local media after the optional afternoon skate.
"We were upset about the call in the first period [on] Pitkanen," said Hitchcock. "You know my feeling on diving and putting that type of pressure on referees. I've been saying for two months I don't like it. We instruct our players, quite frankly, and it comes from management right through the coaching staff, don't do it. Don't dive. Fight to stay on your feet, and that's just the way we do it. I don't know what has been said on the other side, but that's the way we do it."
FLYERS NOTES Robert Esche will be in goal on Friday night when the Flyers host the Atlanta Thrashers. There were 13 players who skated on Thursday during an optional skate. Those who stayed off of the ice were Hatcher, Pitkanen, Peter Forsberg, Simon Gagne, Mike Knuble, Kim Johnsson, Mike Rathje, Michal Handzus and Mike Richards, as they opted for a workout with Strength and Conditioning Coach Jim McCrossin.