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Vandermeer Arrives for Practice; Gagne Improving

by Kevin Kurz / Philadelphia Flyers
Newest addition to club prepares for second stint in Philadelphia

Vandermeer speaks to media after practice: FlyersTV
Related content: Flyers Acquire Jim Vandermeer

(Voorhees, NJ) – When Jim Vandermeer was traded from the Flyers in February 2004, it was done out of necessity. After all, the club’s top two centers in Jeremy Roenick and Keith Primeau were out for extended periods of time due to injury and the Flyers were preparing for what they hoped to be a lengthy playoff run.
Jim Vandermeer played 47 games with the Flyers from 2002-2004. (Getty Images)

It’s hard to say which club, the Flyers or Chicago Blackhawks, benefited most from the trade. Chicago sent Alexei Zhamnov to Philadelphia that year, and the Flyers came to within a single game of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals with help from the veteran center.

Vandermeer understood the move at the time, and has no hard feelings.

“Those are the chances G.M.’s take,” he said. “I talked to Paul [Holmgren] a couple times right when I got traded, and he expressed how he felt when I left here.”

Regardless, during the last three-plus years, Vandermeer has continued to develop into a solid, all-purpose defenseman and will bring a physical and energetic style of play to the Philadelphia lineup for his second stint in the orange and black after playing 47 games here from 2002-04.

“I left here a little earlier than I thought I would the first time,” said Vandermeer, who also spent parts of three seasons with the AHL’s Phantoms after signing with the Flyers as a free agent in the summer of 2000. “Now I get a chance to come back, and it’s really exciting.”

“He’s turned himself into a well rounded defenseman who plays the game hard and is a good player at both ends of the rink,” said John Stevens after Wednesday’s practice at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone. “He’s a welcome addition around here.”

Captain Jason Smith agrees with Stevens, and sees in Vandermeer a little bit of himself.

“He’s a great competitor and physical defenseman,” said Smith. “He’s brings another edge to our game, and we could always use more physical [play] and guys that bring energy and excitement to the game.”

The addition of Vandermeer gives the Flyers a multitude of defensemen currently on the roster. Even with Alexandre Picard being reassigned to the Phantoms on Wednesday morning, the Flyers still have seven other blueliners that are apparently healthy. Derian Hatcher and Kimmo Timonen both missed a couple of games recently with a sore knee and lower body injury, respectively, but both were fine to play in Tuesday night’s 3-2 home loss to Phoenix.

“I don’t think you can ever have enough healthy defensemen,” said Stevens. “It means a couple guys aren’t going to be able to play, but at the same time, we’ve had injuries already and if you have depth at the position it will be much needed as you move along.”

Gagne Takes Part in Full Practice

Simon Gagne has been out of the lineup since Nov. 7. (Getty Images)
Flyers forward Simon Gagne was cleared for contact and took part in a full practice with his teammates for the first time since getting a concussion in Pittsburgh on November 7. He has missed the last 18 games.

Gagne continues to make progress, and even said that what is keeping him out now may not be the concussion, but discomfort in his neck in which he has been seeing a chiropractor to remedy.

“We’re still having a little bit of a problem with the neck, so we decided to look at it. I started to see [a chiropractor] a couple weeks ago and that’s helping and making a big difference,” said Gagne. “I see some progress, and that’s a good sign.

“Sometimes if you have a sore neck that goes up to the side of your head and that could be a muscle thing. At the same time, we need to be careful because it might still be a problem with the concussion. But the way I feel on the ice, I feel very good. It’s a good sign.”

Having lost four straight games, getting Gagne back in the lineup as quickly as possible is important, according to Smith.

“He’s obviously a world class player and one of the premier guys in the league,” he said. “He’s a very gifted offensive guy who’s very experienced and plays all aspects of the game which is an important part of our team game. I’m definitely looking forward to [his return].”

As much of a benefit as getting a player who has had back-to-back 40-goal seasons would be, the team is still going be cautious about his return. The Flyers and Gagne want to be 100 percent certain that there is no reoccurrence of his injury when they need him most during the second half of the season.

“He knows physically how he’s feeling and he knows when his timing is back. We’re just going to continue to condition him and progress him along and make sure that when he comes back, he’s good and ready to come back,” said Stevens.
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