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Flyers getting healthy bodies back

by Mike G. Morreale
VOORHEES, N.J. -- The Philadelphia Flyers will look to continue their ascent up the Eastern Conference standings Tuesday when they host the Florida Panthers at the Wells Fargo Center.
It appears as though the Flyers will receive a boost to their lineup with the return of forward Maxime Talbot and defensemen Andreas Lilja and Pavel Kubina.
Talbot, who will replace Jody Shelley in the lineup, skated alongside rookies Sean Couturier and Zac Rinaldo at the team's morning practice here at the Flyers Virtua SkateZone. He was sidelined one game with an upper-body injury likely suffered injured during a fight with Boston Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk on Saturday.
Kubina (upper body), who has sat out the last seven games, and Lilja (throat), who missed Sunday's overtime victory against the Penguins, were paired together during the team's practice. With two defenders returning, rookies Brandon Manning and Erik Gustafsson likely will not suit up against the Panthers.
"It's been really hard to sit and watch, but the team has been playing great," Kubina said. "But now I can go back in (Tuesday) and play. I think I'll be paired with (Lilja), but not sure yet.
"I've been skating hard the last three or four days, and there was never any real time frame when I would return, but I'm ready. Hopefully (Andrej Meszaros) can make it back for the playoffs."
Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren announced Monday that Meszaros would undergo surgery to remove a small disc fragment in his lower back Wednesday and miss 6-8 weeks.
"It's sad about Mez, but that happens sometimes," defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. "We all play this game a long time and losing (Chris Pronger) and Mez is tough, but there's nothing we can do. We just have to go on. Maybe if we go deep in the playoffs we'll get Mez back … we have to move forward."
The Flyers have fewer wins and points this season compared to last season with 10 games remaining in the regular season. Despite that fact, defenseman Matt Carle seems to have a better feel for the 2011-12 group down the stretch.
"I think we're playing a little bit better," Carle said. "We went through a tough stretch a month or two ago where it really kind of tested our mental toughness, and to get through that and to still be where we're at in the standings is a good sign. Hopefully we keep building and keep the playoff intensity and mentality going down the stretch."
The Flyers have won eight of their last 10 games and have come away with points in nine of those contests. The club currently sits fifth in the East with 42 wins and 92 points. At this stage last season, the Flyers were first in the East with 44 wins and 97 points.
Here are the projected lineups for the Flyers:
Scott Hartnell - Claude Giroux - Jaromir Jagr
Jakub Voracek - Danny Briere - Eric Wellwood
Matt Read - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
Maxime Talbot - Sean Couturier - Zac Rinaldo
Nicklas Grossmann - Braydon Coburn
Matt Carle - Kimmo Timonen
Andreas Lilja - Pavel Kubina
Ilya Bryzgalov will make his fifth straight start in net, with Sergei Bobrovsky serving as the backup.
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