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Gagne Talking Return

by Kevin Kurz / Philadelphia Flyers
Flyers forward practices hard with team on Wednesday

(Voorhees, NJ) – For the first time since he got hurt with a concussion in early November, Flyers forward Simon Gagne did not shy away from questions about when he could return to the lineup after practice on Wednesday at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone.

Gagne, who has missed the last 23 games after being hit on November 7 in a game against Pittsburgh, and four games earlier in the year after experiencing dizziness following a game on October 27, was asked if he could come back prior to the Flyers-Devils game on Friday night (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).

“You never know,” he said. “If you look at this weekend, I’d have to feel very, very good.

“It might be more realistic for next week or weekend.”

John Stevens also called Gagne “doubtful” for either Friday or Saturday in Toronto.

“I think there’s a chance [for Friday] but it’s a remote chance. I would think next week is a more realistic target.”

Throughout Wednesday’s practice, Gagne skated on a line with Danny Briere and R.J. Umberger. It was the first time he skated with regular linemates, as last week he was among four players wearing the same color-coded jersey.
Simon Gagne has missed the last 23 games with a concussion. (Getty Images)

“Before Christmas, we had four guys on one line so it was tough to get the full feeling of a practice,” he said. “Today was the first one, and it was fun to be back like that.”

After giving the team a day off from skating on Monday and a complete day off from the rink on Tuesday, Stevens worked his team hard in a practice that more closely resembled something out of training camp. The team was on the ice for over 90 minutes, including sprints at the end, and then immediately went upstairs in their practice facility for an off-ice weightlifting session.

Some of the on-ice drills included a healthy dose of physical contact along the boards and in the corners, and Gagne was a willing participant. He was on the giving and receiving end of some tough hits.

That’s just fine with him, as Gagne wants to make sure that when he makes his return there is no fear of getting re-injured like the first time.

“If you look today, we had a couple drills where some guys were coming after me, and that’s what I want,” he said. “I need to get past it and see how I feel when I get hit. That’s maybe the first practice where that happened.”

“If he comes back and plays with hesitation and he’s apprehensive, I think he’d be susceptible to injury,” said Stevens. “It’s important that he feels comfortable and he’s ready to come back.”

Other injuries...

As is often the case this time of year, the team is nursing some injuries. Fortunately, none of them other than Gagne’s appear to be all that serious.
Scottie Upshall missed Sunday's game in Florida with a sprained right ankle.  (Getty Images)

Scottie Upshall, who missed Sunday's game in Florida, skated for about 15 minutes Wednesday before leaving the ice with his sprained right ankle. Stevens did not rule him out for Friday night. Randy Jones, who has missed three of the last four games with a knee injury, stayed off of the ice entirely but also was not ruled out for the weekend.

Jason Smith’s lower body injury kept him off of the ice and he is questionable for the weekend, while Sami Kapanen missed practice with the flu.

Steve Downie was recalled from the Phantoms in the morning should the Flyers need an extra body on Friday night.

Flyers comment on NHL Winter Classic

Virtually all of the Flyers had a chance to catch at least some of the NHL’s Winter Classic on Monday, which had the Penguins facing off against the Sabres in an outdoor game in Buffalo, New York. Not surprisingly, they would all love to be a part of an event like that in the future.

“It looks like a lot of fun, and it brings back memories,” said Mike Knuble. “They’re exactly right when they talk about how players started skating on a pond.”

“I thought it was pretty cool to see all those people there and the big show,” added Briere, who spent four seasons in Buffalo. “I enjoyed watching it, that’s for sure.”

It also brought back memories for Stevens, who, like most Canadian youngsters, was raised playing on outdoor frozen ponds.

“We all grew up getting together and shoveling the pond off and playing until the snow was too heavy, so we’d have to take a break and shovel again,” he said. “It brings you back to the roots of the game."

The Penguins won the game in a shootout, 2-1.
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