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Flyers fill defensive hole with Alberts

by John McGourty
The Philadelphia Flyers, hurting for defensemen, obtained veteran blueliner Andrew Alberts from the Boston Bruins on Monday in exchange for minor-league forward Ned Lukacevic and a fourth-round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

The 2009 fourth-round pick becomes a 2009 third-round pick if the Flyers resign Alberts at the end of his contract, which expires after the season.

"Andrew is a big, competitive defenseman and he skates well," said Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren. "He will bring experience and depth to our team."

At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Alberts has good size. In 184 NHL games, he has 1 goal and 18 assists, with 231 penalty minutes.

The Flyers had acquired Lukacevic and defenseman Patrik Hersley on July 1 in a trade that sent defenseman Denis Gauthier and a second-round pick in 2010 to the Kings.

Alberts was badly hurt in a game at Philadelphia on Nov. 26, 2007, when he attempted to play a puck in his zone while on his knees and Flyers forward Scott Hartnell drilled Alberts' head into the boards. It was the first meeting of the teams after Flyers defenseman Randy Jones had checked Bruins center Patrice Bergeron from behind into the boards Oct. 27, leaving him with a season-ending concussion. Both Jones and Hartnell received suspensions for their actions.

"Andrew is a big, competitive defenseman and he skates well. He will bring experience and depth to our team."
-- Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren

Alberts played 10 games after the injury, but head and spinal problems forced him out for 3 1/2 months. He returned for two playoff games but wasn't sharp. Alberts played in six preseason games for the Bruins but was scratched from the first two regular-season contests.
Ironically, it's Jones for whom the Flyers must find a substitute. The defenseman needs surgery on his hip and is expected to miss 12-to-16 weeks, according to the Flyers. Jones' injury came only a week after the Flyers announced young defenseman Ryan Parent will miss 12-to-14 weeks following surgery on his right shoulder.

Heading into Monday's game, the Flyers planned to use Kimmo Timonen and Ossi Vaananen in their first defensive pairing, Braydon Coburn and Luca Sbisa on the second pairing and Steve Eminger and Lasse Kukkonen as their fifth and sixth defensemen.

Sbisa, 18, has junior eligibility remaining, but his appearance in Saturday's season opener means the Flyers have just eight more games to decide if they're going to keep the No. 19 pick from the 2008 Entry Draft or return him to the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League. Under the collective-bargaining agreement, he cannot be assigned to another professional league this year.

It's that collective-bargaining agreement that is driving all these moves by Holmgren. If Sbisa stays on the roster all season, he'll give the Flyers the maximum 50 professional contracts. The club also is near the salary cap.

Lukacevic, 22, was born in Serbia but grew up in British Columbia. He played three seasons with the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League before being traded to the Swift Current Broncos, where he had his best junior season in 2004-05, notching 25 goals and 53 points in 63 games.

The Los Angeles Kings made Lukacevic a fourth-round pick (No. 110) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. They sent him to the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL at the end of his fourth junior season, and he had a goal in seven AHL playoff games. He had a goal in 12 games two seasons ago before Manchester sent him down to the Reading Royals of the ECHL. He played all last season for Reading, putting up 17 goals and 19 assists in 61 games.

The knock on Lukacevic, who is 6-feet, 200 pounds, is that he is a streaky scorer. At Reading he became a better defensive forward. Lukacevic is regarded as a good skater and puck carrier. He has a rugged, compact body and is not easy to push around.
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