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Flyers' Lecavalier returns from back injury

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS - Philadelphia Flyers forward Vincent Lecavalier made an earlier-than-expected return from injury Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.

Lecavalier was expected to be out until early January with a non-displaced back fracture and had not played since Nov. 30 against the Nashville Predators. He skated with the team Saturday morning and was not scheduled to play, but Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said prior to the game that Lecavalier would replace forward Steve Downie, who will miss seven to 10 days with an upper-body injury.

Lecavalier, who has missed the past nine games, has nine goals and 14 points in 22 games in his first season with Philadelphia. He signed with the Flyers during the summer after being bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Holmgren also announced that defenseman Nicklas Grossman will miss the game because of the flu. He'll be replaced by Hal Gill, a healthy scratch for the past 20 games.

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