(Voorhees, NJ, March 5) – Mike Knuble, sidelined since February 17 with two broken bones in his face, could return to the lineup as soon as Thursday, March 15, when the Flyers host the Atlanta Thrashers.
The team is hoping Knuble gets cleared on Tuesday and can practice on Wednesday.
"He's still got a little bit of a black eye, but he looks good all things considered," said John Stevens after Monday's skate.
Knuble collided with the New York Rangers' Brendan Shanahan during the third period of Philadelphia's 5-3 win at Madison Square Garden. He had surgery to repair a broken cheekbone and broken orbital bone on February 21.
"It will be three weeks after the surgery almost to the day," said Knuble, who will be wearing a full face shield for protection. "I think initially when I was first injured they said four weeks, but I could come back a little bit earlier if I wanted to."
Stevens cautioned that it will take time for Knuble to regain his form. He is still second on the team in scoring with 22 goals and 21 assists for 43 points in 52 games.
"I had a severe eye injury myself and when you can't do anything for a length of time, it's amazing how quickly the conditioning leaves your body," said Stevens, referring to a career-ending injury he suffered while playing for the Phantoms. "It comes back quick, mind you, with a lot of work, but he's going to need some time on the ice."
Stevens will have to figure out where to put Knuble, who is used to playing alongside Simon Gagne. In recent games, Gagne has been on a line with Jeff Carter and Scottie Upshall and the trio has shown good chemistry at times.
"We'd have to look at things. [Gagne] and Mike have such good chemistry together, we'd certainly have to look at that and then see where we are health-wise and come up with combinations that work. I'm not sure that Jeff and Upshall don't stay together and Gagne and Knuble play with somebody else. That's something we're going to have to look at."
Knuble himself doesn't seem too concerned about who he ends up playing with upon his return.
"I understand guys are playing well, so that would be a case for John to decide where he wants to put players. We'll see how it works out."
FLYERS NOTES Stevens announced after practice that goaltender Martin Biron will start in net on Tuesday when the Flyers host New Jersey (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, 610 WIP). … Dmitry Afanasenkov missed practice due to personal reasons but will be back on Tuesday.