(Voorhees, NJ, January 15) – The Philadelphia Flyers could have two of their injured players back on Thursday, when Mike Richards and Geoff Sanderson hope to return from their sports hernias. The Flyers host the New York Islanders at the Wachovia Center (7:00 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, 610 WIP).
Both suffered the same injury during a game on December 9 against the Washington Capitals, and left only minutes apart in the game. On Monday, Richards and Sanderson took part in the team's practice at the Virtua Health Flyers Skate Zone.
While it is unlikely the pair will be at full strength right out of the gate, their presence should help. Sanderson is still the team's fifth-leading scorer with eight goals and nine assists in 26 games, while Richards has two goals and seven assists in 29 contests.
"It's sore every day; it's just a matter how it rebounds for [Tuesday]. It's not 100 percent, but I think it's getting pretty close. I expect to play Thursday," said Sanderson.
With their return, one decision that will have to be made is who comes out of the lineup. One possibility is rookie Ryan Potulny, although his play will make that decision a tough one according to John Stevens.
He competes every night at a high level," said Stevens. "For me, the surprising thing is how he is very accountable without the puck. As a young guy, that is not always the case, but he's come in and shown the ability that he can play responsibly in his own end.
"I think we all knew he had an offensive touch, but to do it at this level and start to put some pucks in the net and his ability to play away from the puck is encouraging for a young player. That is why he plays as much as he does."
Potulny's goal was to make it a hard decision for the coaching staff and upper management to take him out of the lineup.
"We have guys coming back that are going to be healthy and they are good players, so I just have to go out and do what I can do when I get the chance," he said. "It's up to the coaches to decide who they want to play."
Gagne Reacts to All-Star Selection
Flyers left wing Simon Gagne will be the team's lone representative at this year's All-Star Game in Dallas on Wednesday, January 24. Gagne leads the Flyers in goals (21) and points (34).
It is his second selection to the team over his seven-year career.
"It's always an honor. It's my second one so I think I will enjoy this one a little more than the first one," he said. "I was a little bit younger when I went to the first one, a little bit nervous. I know what to expect, it's a fun week and I am looking forward to it."
Peter Forsberg had the following to say about his linemate of the past two seasons:
"There are a lot of things I see in him. To play with him for almost two years now, he's an unbelievable player," said Forsberg. "Not only does he have a great shot and is a good scorer and great skater, but he sees the [ice] really well, too."
In his previous appearance in 2001, Gagne scored two goals, including the game-winner, for the North American squad. This season, the format will go back to the Eastern Conference vs. the Western Conference.